British Columbia should consider primary elections

Thirty-four days from now, more than 50,000 provincial Liberals will elect a new leader. Eighty-four days from now, around 25,000 New Democrats will do the same thing. That means it's likely less than two percent of British Columbia's population will have a say in who succeeds Gordon Campbell and Carole James. Given our two-party system and the increased power of political leaders within it, that seems profoundly undemocratic. So why don't we extent the right to vote in such elections to the general public - as already happens in the United States? Why don't we expand that franchise beyond those who pay $10 to become a Liberal or New Democrat?

By doing so, it's more likely the winners of such races will be those who can appeal to the majority rather than those who can mobilize an ideological minority - signing up masses of new party members. Because, unfortunately, that's what's happening right now as less than two percent of British Columbians prepare to make decisions that will affect the remaining 98 percent of us.

10 Comments

The reason this has never been considered lies at the basic difference between the republican system and the constitutional monarchy. The Prime minister is not the head of state in Canada, nor is the Premier the head of state in the provinces. The GG and the LG are. The premier is merely the head consultant to the the LG in the province. As such he has little or no actual power himself but only represents the party who has the majority of the legislature. Unlike a president, he has no powers of veto, nor can he pardon anyone. A major difference in power structure.

The 50,000 liberal number seems quite high, but I do seem to recall the voting age in that group starts at age 14. Form what I hear, the NDP numbers have gone up considerably. To get a Premier selected by the faithful is a sad way of doing things. Just watch the new Liberal leader when he suggests he needs a mandate right away.

Avoter, it'll be she and we'll have a writ-drop in September w/ Ontario or October days if not hours after Ontario's. The jet noise will be deafening, that's for sure.

As far as the editorial, I think there should be a rule that if the Premier or the Leader of the Official Opposition changes except in the last 363 days before a general election, a new 4-year term is required w/in 6 months. Let the top two parties pick the leader internally, but tell the parties if you change leaders you cause a writ-drop up to a year later. Otherwise you have fans & wanna-bes foisting on the party bases candidates they may not want like Harry Lali on the BCNDP or Bill Bennett on the BCLibs.

I could be wrong, but don't you have to be a party member to vote in US primaries? So the only real difference is that in Canada we vote for party leaders and representatives less often than they do there.

Political Karma, not in Washington State. Open primary, top two vote getters run in the general. But that state of the Union also has the same US problem of only two serious political parties.

This could work, and the advantage would be is, it would take membership buying (which anyone who follows our system knows eliminates honest people from becoming candidates) out of the picture. And, if your objective is to make parties less powerful, as well as make it it easier to elect independents, this is a step in that direction. (Josef, this hasn't happened in Washington State, but their arrangement hasn't been in effect long enough to see this sort of change.)

Still, I would like to see proportional representation or STV get a shot. If this doesn't work, take parties out of elections altogether.

"So why don't we extent the right to vote in such elections to the general public - as already happens in the United States?"

Yes, and why don't me make it mandatory that people identify their political affiliation when registering to vote, and have primaries like the US? And why don't we elect a President and the Senate while we're at it? And hey, it's really too much trouble constantly calculating the exchange rate on the dollar, why don't we just use the US dollar - it would be so much more convenient.

In case you haven't noticed, Sean, Canada has a different political system from the US. People all have an equal opportunity to join and become involved in political parties in Canada. To think that Liberals and Conservatives and Greens et al would have a vote in electing the leader of the NDP is absurd on just about every level.

It would make more sense to leave the selection of Premier to all MLA's after an election. On a close race either party could have an influence in the choice.

Absolutely not! Do you really want to go anywhere near a system that endlessly spins from one election cycle to another...to a system where the only real objective is getting elected and the rest of the time is spent getting rich people to pay for your next election....policy making...they don't have time...what we really need to do is make sure that proportional representation is front and centre again next time we vote...

What's so hard (and exclusive) about the current process for electing the leader of the BC Liberal Party? (I can't speak for the NDP's as I haven't paid enough attention).

It's a 3 step process and it costs $10 ($5 if your under 25). That's $2.50 per year - hardly an exclusive or elite club.

Step 1: Buy membership online
http://www.bcliberals.com/take_action/volunteer,_join_the_party/join_the_bc_liberal_party_online
It takes less than 5 minutes and is no more work than registering to vote in a primary.

Step 2: Learn about the candidates. It will likely be a preferential ballot so think about your first, second and third choices.

Step 3: Vote by phone or Internet on Feb 26th. Again, this will take 5 minutes so even if you have to work that day, you should be able to vote.

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