Why Proportional Representation

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The BCCLA believes how Canada’s democracy functions has everything to do with civil liberties.

One of the bedrock principles of the BCCLA is the idea that, within the political system of the Canadian state, each of us is sovereign – we govern ourselves and agree for our rights to be limited through the democratic process. How that democratic process operates is a core concern of the BCCLA and it always has been.

I believe that the first time this connection was stated by the courts in the post-Charter era, was when Beverly McLachlin, during her time as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC, concluded:

“The right to vote and participate in the democratic election of one’s government is one of the most fundamental of the Charter rights. For without the right to vote in free and fair elections, all other rights would be in jeopardy.”

She wrote that in her decision on a case brought by the BCCLA in 1985, in which we asked the BC Supreme Court to review the allocation of seats in the legislature because of significant inequality in population between ridings, and therefore, significant differences in the voting power of each voter. The case established that the Charter applied to the system of voting and riding distributions.

The BCCLA thinks that how the voting right is exercised, along with the electoral system, is a subject for civil rights concern on its own. This is also inextricably linked to the protection of other rights. For that reason we have repeatedly intervened and spoken out when governments try to make voting more difficult, for example, by introducing unduly onerous ID rules, by restrictive rules on who is allowed to vouch for those who have no ID, or by placing unjustified restrictions on the rights of Canadians to vote while abroad.

When it comes to proportional representation, the BCCLA has been in favour of switching our electoral system from first-past-the-post to a proportional representation system since at least early 2005, when we endorsed the single transferable vote (BC-STV) system during the first referendum on electoral reform. The BCCLA’s Board of Directors took that position after months of discussion and debate, and hearing from supporters on both sides of the question. The BCCLA was persuaded that proportional representation makes each individual’s vote more meaningful, and weights each person’s vote more equally with other votes – advancing the principle of voter equality that we had actively fought for more than two decades.

We are proud to continue advocating for proportional representation to enhance the influence of each individual vote and to ensure fewer votes are “wasted.”

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