Sunday, October 14, 2007

B.C.'s Citizen Assembly

This is almost my last word on Proportional Representation. On Friday October 12th, Mark E. Warren was a guest of the Philosophy and Political Science Depts. and spoke on the B.C.'s Citizen Assembly. This group of 160 citizens were chosen almost at random to participate in a study on electoral reform, specifically the STV, or Single Transferable Vote. This all took place in 2005. Two very interesting points: 1. The process was set up because of citizen discontent after several "screwy" Provincial elections in B.C. ; and after an "atmosphere" developed over the electoral process. To quote Dr. Warren, "it seemed to be wise for the government to do something about this". (If you want more information on the how this process worked, get in touch with me). 2. after three months of a) a learning about electoral systems; b) three months of public hearings and submissions; and c) three months of deliberation; the Citizens Representatives issued a recommendation for S.T.V. In a referendum held in 2005, 57% of the voters, voted YES, but 60% was needed. Nevertheless, the process has continued, and in 2009, it will likely come up in another referendum. Please note that STV is not a "party friendly system"; whereas the Ontario MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) was considered to be a "party friendly system". It would seem that Canadians do not like change all that much, and an extensive awareness and education campaign needs to take place all along the process. The B.C. process seems to have worked well, but it has its drawbacks. People who understood the process, were quite likely to vote in favor of it, those who did not, voted NO. Proportional representation would seem to be a "work in progress", driven by the voters and government. The end result should be a system the Canadian citizens trust, one that will work to get the issues that need to be brought up, brought up, and fairly debated, with resulting policies that serve the people.

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