Opinion Column

B.C. Greens’ political ‘hostage taking’ shows grim future if proportional representation adopted

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

British Columbia Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver speaks about the party's affordable housing strategy during a campaign stop in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday April 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

British Columbia Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver speaks about the party's affordable housing strategy during a campaign stop in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday April 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

“What the NDP promised in their election campaign is not really relevant.”

                            - B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver

Last week B.C. Green Party MLAs staged a dramatic political “hostage taking” of the B.C. New Democratic Party government and refused to release it unless the Greens’ demands were met — to drop two key election promises from the budget.

What’s more, the chief political “hostage taker,” Green leader Andrew Weaver, airily dismissed key NDP campaign pledges like the much-needed $10 A Day Childcare plan and the $400 annual renters’ rebate.

And leave it to Weaver’s veto that B.C.’s budget update had no money for either promise that helped the NDP defeat a B.C. Liberal government that neglected both families with young children and renters.

But more importantly, the Green’s blocking of NDP promises is a very troubling example of how a proportional representation electoral system would work if adopted by referendum next year.

That’s because pro-rep practically guarantees no party will ever be able to form a majority, leaving every government dependent on small parties like the Greens to retain power.

And it means smaller parties get vastly disproportionate power over those with far stronger popular support because they can hold parties with more seats “hostage” until their demands are met.

It isn’t a pretty picture. It is, however, what the tail wagging the dog looks like.

But it’s not just here where the dangers of pro-rep electoral systems creating endless minorities and constant demands for deals from tiny parties – it’s around the world.

In New Zealand, which has the mixed-member proportional representation system that both the NDP and Greens support, elections will be held September 23.

Voters face what an Australian newspaper called “New Zealand’s fiendishly complicated MMP proportional representation voting system.” And they aren’t joking.

In New Zealand, of its 119 Members of Parliament, just 62 MPs represent geographic ridings like in Canada. But a whopping 50 MPs come from party chosen lists, while another seven represent Maori people.

The bottom line question is: should just three MLAs in a B.C. Legislature of 87 members be the tail wagging the dog on important policies that effect us all?

With an MMP proportional electoral system promising minority governments forever, the answer is simple and is also the one to use in the 2018 referendum -- no.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist.

Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com.

Twitter: @BillTieleman