MLA to lead talks on democratic reform

Saanich Peninsula sessions kick off NDP’s province-wide discussions on elections.

Gary Holman supported the referenda on electoral reform in 2005 and again in 2009.

Today, Holman is the NDP’s critic for democratic reform and the party’s official spokesperson on the issue. He’s also the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and will lead two public meetings in February to kick start province-wide information gathering.

Holman says he has always supported changes to the province’s democratic process — whether that be in the form of a Single Transferrable Vote (STV) or Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) representation. STV was floated by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government in 2005, garnering 58 per cent support in a referendum. At the time, the threshold for success was 60 per cent.

“To his credit, Campbell said since the result was so close, they would do it again and held a second referendum in 2009,” Holman said.

That vote failed and the issue has been on the sidelines since. Yet it has been revived within the NDP.

Holman said with leader John Horgan’s public commitment to democratic reform, it has put into motion a province-wide review by the party. Holman is leading that process and said it’s in the early stages, focusing on feedback and ideas from the public.

To that end, he is holding two meetings, Feb. 3 at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre and Feb. 5 at the Central Saanich Senior Citizens Association in Brentwood Bay. Both start at 6:30 p.m.

Holman has invited representatives from Fair Vote Canada and Fair Voting B.C. They will be able to answer more of the detailed questions and discuss their advocacy for change.

Holman admits pursuing any change in how people are elected in B.C. doesn’t necessarily work in favour of his party. Yet, he said he feels getting beyond the current first-part-the-post electoral system will help increase voter turnout and engagement in government.

“Right now, the current system can result in a winner take all situation,” he said. “Other votes then seem to voters like they were wasted. For example, in the last election anyone who voted for (a party) other than the Liberals might see their views not represented at all in the legislature.”

Holman likes the idea of Mixed-Member Proportional representation and talked at length about it. MMP, he said, would allow people to vote for an individual, with secondary voting being applied to runners-up in each electoral area. In Saanich North and the Islands, for instance, Holman said the race was so close that under MMP, two of the three candidates could have been elected.

“Voting change is not necessarily in the interest of the NDP or the larger parties. A different system could bring representation from other parties, like the Greens or Conservatives.”

That, he said, could lead to better co-operation and even the necessity of forming coalition governments. Holman said he enjoys his committee work, which sees Liberals and the NDP work together without the rancor of public debates. This, he continued, could be the ideal outcome of democratic reform.

Yet, the devil is in the details and those are years away, Holman said, admitting his rosy view of election change is still only a dream.

Right now, his party wants to hear from British Columbians on the subject. Holman added while his party is backing the effort, he wants it to be as non-partisan as possible.

“At this time, it’s back to basics,” he said. “We’re committed to not just looking into it, but to putting to the voters.”

Should the NDP form the next government in 2017, Holman explained, they would put the issue of election reform to the citizens in a referendum. That could give them enough time to change the system for the election in 2021.

When asked why the NDP is pursuing this now, Holman said it’s because the party’s leadership has made it a priority and, more personally, democratic reform could help shape a more co-operative government that is better able to represent the views of its electorate.

To find out more about Holman’s February meetings on the Saanich Peninsula, call 250-655-5711 or visit GaryHolmanMLA.ca.

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