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Members appointed by jury selection process to study electoral systems
Citizens Assembly nearly complete
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
RICHMOND, British Columbia - A B.C. citizens’ advocacy group which seeks electoral reform, has suspended its lobbying activities until the newly created Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform in BC makes its final recommendations in December 2004. Fair Voting BC was founded with the goal to review the current winner-takes-all district system.
Fair Voting BC feels it largely achieved its objective. The group’s president John Vegt expressed confidence in the process and the people who give leadership to the Citizens Assembly. The Vancouver-area chartered accountant urged fellow British Columbians to participate in a rare opportunity to make the province’s voting system more democratic and fair.
Since its inception, the broad-based Fair Voting BC has called for a referendum on electoral reform and lobbied political parties to make such a commitment. The group successfully presented electoral reform as a non-partisan issue, but also convincingly argued that for political parties and politicians to decide the rules under which they hold and retain power, will place them in a huge conflict of interest.
The group has commended the BC Liberals, who took 77 out of the 79 seats in the election of 2001 to form a majority government, for doing something unique. The government took the process away from politicians and gave it to the citizens to decide. Two voters from each electoral district has been appointed through an independent jury selection process. Fair Voting BC, which has several Dutch-born directors, urged all political parties to respect this process.
Fair Voting BC does not advocate any particular voting system. It holds that British Columbians should first build consensus on what they expect from their voting system, then design one to meet those expectations.
Fair Voting BC suggests the following goals for a voting system would likely be supported by most British Columbians.
- • Broad Proportionality - A party’s power should reflect more closely a party’s popular support.
- • More Choice - Voting should not be constrained by vote splitting and fears of wasting one’s vote.
- • Stable Government – More consensus building amongst political parties.
- • Institutional Reform – Less dictatorial approach to governing.
- • Significant Local Representation - The personal service MLAs give to constituents should not be diminished.
While the group will suspend its activities for the next twelve months, it expects that the directors, as individuals will contribute to and participate in the Citizens Assembly process.
Former Member of the Legislature Nick Loenen originally launched a campaign for electoral reform following his defeat in the 1991 provincial election. A seatmate of Premier Wm.N. Vander Zalm, who also lost, Loenen later obtained a MA in political science. He wrote his thesis Citizenship and Democracy on political representation. BC steel fabricator Pieter Zeeman who passed away in 2002, along with lawyer Arie de Jong were founding directors as well. Former Inspector of Independent Schools, Gerry Ensing, also served as the group’s advisor. Ensing earlier had been involved with the Federation of Independent Schools and was instrumental in the struggle to gain government recognition and funding for non-public schools wich included the Roman Catholic system.
Fair Voting BC, it was incorporated in 1998, now has members of nearly every provincial political party on its board. The group is co-founder of a national organisation, Fair Vote Canada.