Bet­ter to fix first past the post than go to PR

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - KIRK LAPOINTE Busi­ness in Vancouver

When your com­puter doesn’t func­tion quickly, you up­grade its soft­ware. When your car doesn’t run smoothly, you re­pair the engine. You don’t throw them out. So let’s agree, our rusty, dusty, fusty elec­toral sys­tem can use a tune-up, too. But in­stead we have been led into a false choice of the ex­ist­ing first past the post (FPTP) and pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion (PR).

There is a much bet­ter third op­tion: fix what we have.

But no.

Rather than pur­sue sim­pler so­lu­tions, we are breath­lessly into a bass-ack­wards BC NDP move – mail-in bal­lots ar­rived be­fore a cam­paign of big ques­tions and few an­swers – to ap­pease the pow­er­ravenous Green tri­umvi­rate and pos­si­bly hur­tle us into a two-term test drive of what might be a lemon. The rush is un­seemly and sus­pi­cious.

What would be bet­ter is bet­ter­ment of the cur­rent sys­tem to im­prove en­gage­ment, trans­parency and rel­e­vance.

Like:

1. It’s 2018, my per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is all over the in­ter­net, and I am in the clutches of e-com­merce, so why can’t I vote on­line yet? Wouldn’t that in­crease voter par­tic­i­pa­tion and get a clearer pic­ture of who sup­ports whom? Be­fore we add rep­re­sen­ta­tives, we would be bet­ter off adding vot­ers.

2. While we’re on that topic, why not re­quire peo­ple to vote? If we are keen on elec­toral re­form, let’s start with the elec­torate. Be­fore we change sys­tems, shouldn’t we make vot­ing manda­tory – maybe through a small tax break to vot­ers – to see what re­sult we would get?

3. If we’re so con­cerned about rep­re­sen­ta­tion, why not start by in­creas­ing the num­ber of rid­ings so your MLA is more likely to live closer to you and more re­flect the po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ments of you and your neigh­bours?

4. Why must there be nar­rowly fo­cused vot­ing pe­ri­ods? Why just lim­ited ad­vanced polls and long line­ups on the fi­nal day? If the PR ref­er­en­dum takes in bal­lots over five weeks, why not a one-week pro­vin­cial elec­tion?

5. Why do we need a full elec­tion ev­ery four years? Why not par­tial elec­tions ev­ery two or three years to cap­ture shifts in our pol­i­tics or send sig­nals to lead­ers that they are ei­ther on track or off course? Isn’t that the whole point of to­day’s mid-terms in the U.S.?

6. How about term lim­its to en­sure greater turnover and suc­ces­sion in our sys­tem and limit in­cum­bent ad­van­tages?

Or, if we’re wor­ried about “safe seats” that elect the same party again and again, use tech­nol­ogy to im­par­tially tweak elec­toral boundaries be­tween elec­tions, as some po­lit­i­cal in­no­va­tors have sug­gested.

7. If we are se­ri­ous about pow­er­shar­ing across party lines, then why not re­quire cer­tain leg­isla­tive mea­sures to en­joy wider sup­port than just the gov­ern­ing party’s? Cer­tain fi­nan­cial bills, in­ter­provin­cial trade deals, laws on hu­man rights and mea­sures for Indigenous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion would ben­e­fit from cross-party in­put and sup­port, and that would rep­re­sent a broader per­spec­tive than any coali­tion’s.

8. At its core, most ev­ery govern­ment seems se­cre­tive and miserly with in­for­ma­tion. Why not open more govern­ment de­lib­er­a­tions through more gen­er­ous and rig­or­ous free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws and rou­tine dis­clo­sures? Wouldn’t that be a more for­mi­da­ble ap­pli­ca­tion of ac­count­abil­ity than any new sprawl of po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion? In­deed, wouldn’t coali­tions cre­ate even more col­lu­sive se­crecy?

9. Why not re­quire can­di­dates to be nom­i­nated by their rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and live in those rid­ings so there is a clearer guar­an­tee of lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion?

10. There is a rea­son it is called ques­tion pe­riod, not an­swer pe­riod, prob­a­bly be­cause it is al­most ab­surdly dys­func­tional and a the­atri­cal fraud. Why not re­quire min­is­ters to an­swer ques­tions by in­tro­duc­ing – and, yes, more ag­gres­sively us­ing and en­forc­ing – a pro­vin­cial ver­sion of the writ­ten ques­tions and an­swers of the par­lia­men­tary Or­der Paper?

Sure, it will be slow, but even slow an­swers would be bet­ter than the non-an­swers we get.

There is in­deed a sys­tem to fix, but not one to re­place – at least, not be­fore we rev up the engine and up­date the op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

— Kirk LaPointe is the edi­tor-inchief of Busi­ness in Vancouver and vice-pres­i­dent, ed­i­to­rial, of Glacier Me­dia.

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