I have been in favour of replacing the current at large system of electing our civic representatives with a ward system for a long time. Yet, in my previous article on civic election reform, I advocate for a mixed system with some representatives elected at large and some from wards.
Unlike some of the hardline ward supporters, I do not consider ward systems perfect. I just see such systems as being more democratic than the current system. I am also a bit of a pragmatist, and being mindful of the number of unsuccessful attempts over the past 78 years to replace the at large system with a ward system, I think a serious look at a mixed system is long overdue.
It is my view that a mixed system is more achievable (either through a bylaw under the Vancouver charter, or a plebiscite). A mixed system will also increase citizen engagement and participation in civic elections, and make elections fairer, particularly in the absence of meaningful civic election finance reform.
Since Vancouver is a large diverse city with many geographical, ethnic, and interest based communities a mixed system provides more opportunity for a broader degree of representation, and in my view more, democracy. While such a system is also likely to result in a better balancing of the many competing interests within our great city, it may also increase tensions which could manifest themselves at council meetings.
For some folks the expansion of council positions in order to create the right mix of at large and wards seats will be a negative. Others may feel that given the growth of our city over the past several decades such expansion is long overdue.
In highlighting what I see as pros and cons of a mixed system, I recognize that what I see as a pro may be seen by others as a con. I don’t expect hardline supporters of either the current at large system, or a full ward system to embrace the idea of a mixed system. That of course leaves the roughly 70% of Vancouverites who didn’t vote in the last civic elections who may find in a mixed system a reason to become engaged and participate in our civic elections.
Also posted at Vanopolis.ca