Having represented Kootenay-East for 16 years, Bennett says a change in the way we vote and elect MLA's will lead to far less accountability and local representation.
Bennett spoke in Cranbrook Thursday afternoon as the Kootenay Representative for the No BC Proportional Representation group.
This fall, the people of BC will get mail-in ballot packages where they will decide whether the province should keep its current first-past-the-post election system or move to one of three systems of proportional representation (PR). More details on the ballot here.
With 20 concerned residents in attendance, he is trying to educate the public on why he feels changing the way British Columbians vote is not the right fit for BC and especially for more rural areas like the Kootenays.
"Accountability of politicians shifts from their constituents to political parties, so in other words, when I was MLA for 16 years, my accountability would have been more to the party than it was to my own constituents, and I vehemently disagree with that."
The three options for PR include:
- Dual member proportional
- Each riding would have two MLAs - one would be elected using first-past-the-post, while the other would be chosen on a proportional basis
- Mixed member proportional (MMP)
- This option would keep first-past-the-post elected MLAs, but add seats on a regional basis
- Rural-urban PR
- Urban areas would elect MLAs using single transferable votes, while rural areas would use mix-member proportional
Bennett says MMP is the only form of PR that has ever been tried in the world and claims that it has been soundly rejected each time it has been implemented.
Under PR, the former-MLA explains that the winning party would simply get to appoint people to each riding, whether they are from the constituency or not.
"You talk about things like wildlife management and the impact of predators on wildlife, things that are issues like that that are very localized. We know about them, we care about them, they're important up here - they're not important in most places in the province. If you have MLA's who are just accountable to the party and not the people at home, I just think you lose that representation."
He adds that another concern of his with PR is that it could potentially allow several fringe parties to gain more and more influence in the system.
"People are going to wake up after the next election, they're going to have a minority government, they're going to have small little extreme fringe parties with influence in Victoria, very similar to what we have today with three Green members from Southern Vancouver Island holding so much influence over the provincial agenda. Do we really want that?"
Bennett says there is a decent level of awareness about PR and what it could mean for BC and he implores everyone to get educated on the issue.
More information from the No BC Proportional Representation group can be accessed here.
- David Opinko
Audio: Bill Bennett, Kootenay Rep, No BC Proportional Representation