'There's only one serious contender:' political pundit weighs in on electoral reform

By Ian Holmes
June 2, 2018 - 10:49pm Updated: June 4, 2018 - 10:59am

Allan Warnke, former VIU political science professor, believes two of three provincial electoral reform proposals don't have realistic shots at being adopted.Shaw TV

Attorney General David Eby outlining three electoral reform proposals, which will be voted on this fall.Government of B.C.

NANAIMO — A longtime political commentator believes only one electoral reform proposal has a realistic chance of being adopted, following the release of three proportional representation pitches in B.C. 

Former VIU political science professor and retired MLA Allan Warnke told NanaimoNewsNOW he can only foresee the mixed-member system potentially being accepted by British Columbians when a referendum takes place this fall.

Warnke said both the dual-member and rural-urban options are largely untested, and most people are familiar with the mixed-member concept.

A mixed-member system would combine single-member electoral districts, where members are elected under the current first-past-the-post system, with seats also allocated on a regional or provincial level and based on a list of candidates running for proportional representation seats prepared by the parties.

Warnke said the system encourages more political parties to have a stake in how B.C. is governed.

“It does to some extent encourage coalition governments between parties, which on the surface many people perhaps like the idea of parties compromising their positions.”

Warnke pointed out while more coalition governments may be favoured by some, he believes it works against the Liberals in today's polarizing political climate.

“There is a fear that with the adoption of a mixed-member proportional system you may have an NDP-Green alliance forming government for all-time and freezing out any of the other parties.”

Warnke said under the mixed-member proportional system, defeated MLA's could still serve in government by representing a list of political elitists compiled by respective parties to account for the proportional representation seats.

He said the mixed-member voting involves 60 per cent of candidates running in the current first-past-the-post system, who would represent their constituents in larger ridings.

Warnke is confident far too many holes will be poked in the dual-member and rural-urban proposals to have a reasonable chance at being endorsed by voters.

Peter Loewen, the director of the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, was quoted in a Vancouver Sun article stating the dual-member and rural-urban options have not been used in any other jurisdiction.

“What they’ve tried to do is rightfully come up with systems that are trying to strike the line between proportionality and local representation but in doing that and trying to come up with choice, they’ve somehow decided to take a flier with two systems nobody has ever heard of before,” Loewen told reporter Rob Shaw.

The Vancouver Sun reported Loewen was one of four democratic reform experts asked late last year to review the draft questionnaire on voting systems. Loewen did not endorse the final questionnaire, nor was he consulted on the selection of the voting systems.

In a two-part referendum question, voters will be asked whether to switch to proportional representation or keep the first-past-the-post system, in addition voters would rank the three systems.

Majority support is required to change how our provincial representations are elected and governments formed.

Electoral reform voting takes place between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30.

Previous electoral reform referendums were rejected by B.C. voters in 2005 and 2009.


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On Twitter: @reporterholmes

— With files from the Vancouver Sun and Canadian Press

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