Brad Bennett is the former chair of BC Hydro. His father and grandfather were both former Premiers of British Columbia.

COLUMN: Proportional representation means end of big accomplishments

‘Minority governments have no choice but to go where the noise is. We have enough noise in this province.’

Brad Bennett

From increasing tensions in the United States, to a refugee crisis in Europe, and populism and protectionism on the march across the world, we’ve never been more fortunate to be Canadians and British Columbians.

One of the greatest strengths of our society – and our success – has been our democracy. For almost 150 years, our system has functioned extremely well. Canadians know this on an instinctive level.

It’s why we take such pride in the praise, admiration, and even envy we regularly see from around the world.

Canada is viewed as a politically safe, stable democracy, that not only creates a great place to live, but increasingly, it’s a competitive advantage.

It’s an old cliché, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And our democracy is the furthest thing possible from “broke.”

On the contrary, it’s simple, stable, and successful.

Yes, it sometimes leads to unique scenarios, like in 2001, where the opposition was reduced to two seats, or last year, where the balance of power in B.C. was held by the party that finished a very distant third.

But on the whole, our system tends to create stable majority governments, with the mandate and ability to get things done. Right now, that ability to get things done is at risk.

See also: Proportional representation means more B.C. parties, coalitions

Whatever the other supposed merits of proportional representation, one aspect in particular isn’t getting enough attention: The tendency to create weak minority and coalition governments.

Proportional representation campaigners not only admit this, but view it as a key feature. How many of this province’s great accomplishments would have been possible under a minority government?

Consider touchstones like Expo 86, BC Ferries, the Agricultural Land Reserve, ICBC, BC Hydro, the 2010 Olympics, the Coquihalla Highway, Canada’s first carbon tax, and more. You may support some and not others, but they were all contentious at the time.

Under minority governments, it’s likely most, and possibly all, would never have seen the light of day. It’s not because different parties might “win,” or priorities might change.

It’s because a perpetual minority government is like a publicly-traded company where investors focus on short-term gains at the expense of long-term planning and foresight – and quite often change course on the slightest pretext.

All too often, minority governments are forced into short-term dealmaking, react to vocal special interests, and make policy on the fly. For example, the 2010 Olympic bid would have collapsed in the face of noisy protests that represented a fraction of a fraction of British Columbians.

The Agricultural Land Reserve would never have been created, or would have been greatly watered down. And if my father didn’t have a strong majority, Expo 86 would have been collateral damage in the ongoing conflict between unions and private contractors. Majority governments have the ability to develop a long-term vision, and do the right thing for the right reasons.

Minority governments have no choice but to go where the noise is.

We have enough noise in this province.

What we need is the vision to see past the current noise, and the wisdom to protect the democracy that makes us the envy of the world.

Brad Bennett is the former chair of BC Hydro. His father and grandfather were both former Premiers of British Columbia. He is an honorary doctor of laws, and in 2010, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia.

Just Posted

VIDEO: 5X Festival takes over Surrey’s Central City plaza

Second annual event draws thousands of people throughout the day

The struggle for space inside Surrey’s elementary schools

SECOND IN A SERIES: A look at how overcrowding impacts student life

City shifts proposed transit station to King George after cancellation of LRT

Council to consider Newton Town Centre plan in fall

VIDEO: Plane makes forced landing on Highway 17 in Surrey

Police say no one was injured and no damage to aircraft or vehicles

Nearly 200 motorcycles take off from Cloverdale for Brenden’s Ride

Annual fundraiser supports programs that empower people with disabilities

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read