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3rd May, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Assembly kicks off public hearings
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform began Monday night a series of 50 public hearings around B.C., and heard calls for new systems of allocating seats in the legislature.
Of eight people who made formal presentations, six called for more proportionality in the electoral system, with the aim of making each party's number of seats in the house more closely reflect the share of the popular vote.
Speaking before 23 of the Assembly's 160 members, and 100 members of the public, three of the presenters specifically advocated a Mixed Member Proportional system as used in New Zealand. They spoke of fewer "wasted votes" that go to losing candidates under the current system. And they spoke of increased representation of women and minorities, and a practice of politics that is more co-operative and less adversarial.
"I treasure our democracy," said one, "but I see our democracy broken in this province.. . . Voter turnout is declining. . . Eighty per cent of our youth is not on the voters list. . . . We get legislatures that don't serve the public well, that are unbalanced."
There were other alternative systems urged on the Assembly:
One speaker proposed to scrap general elections, and to replace them with a continuous series of byelections, perhaps one or two a month. "This would allow voters a more constant and more gentle control (and) it would eliminate large and expensive election campaigns. . . . Elections are circuses. They don't contribute very much to understanding."
Another speaker proposed a form of "Approval Voting", in which the voter would give one vote to each of the candidates in the riding that he or she could approve of as an MLA. "It would give the non-mainstream candidates the chance to be heard."
Another proposed a "semi-proportional" system as a first step towards a fully proportional system. "It is important that you give us a system that the great majority of citizens can understand and support in a referendum."
The next public hearing is in Richmond tonight (Tuesday May 4), at the Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel. That will be followed this week by hearings in Burnaby Wednesday, New Westminster Thursday, Surrey/White Rock Saturday and Valemount, also Saturday.
The number of planned public hearings grew Monday to 50 from 49. The extra meeting will be held in Vancouver on Saturday June 12. This additional event has been set up because the number of slots for presenters at the first two Vancouver meetings (Monday night and May 29) quickly became full.
A full schedule of hearings, and information on how to sign up to make a presentation, is on the Assembly’s website at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca
The Assembly is an independent, representative, non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians. They must decide by December 15 whether to propose a change to B.C.’s electoral system. If they recommend a change, it will be the subject of a referendum for all voters in the May 2005 provincial election.