This Saturday, Vancouver is holding a non-binding referndum on the topic of moving to a wards-based electoral system, rather than the current at-large system. You can find out more about what this means (as well as how to participate), at the Decision 2004 site.
I find myself slightly conflicted on this issue. On one hand, having wards means that it becomes significantly easier for an independant to gain a seat on city council. Let’s say, for instance, that I run for city council, but I’m not affiliated with either COPE or the NPA (or any other party – they’re just the most dominant). Currently, I have to scrmble all over town to garner votes. In a ward system, I can focus only on my ward – thus vastly increasing my chance of getting elected. And having independents on city council is a good thing, I feel. The arena is small enough that youth or one-issue candidates can potentially have an effect, but not overwhelm the process.
Now, conversely, at a provincial, and possibly even federal level, there is much debate about moving away from a wards system (for provincial & federal ridings are the same thing as wards). Not to an at-large system, admittedly, but the complaint is about the undemocractic nature of ridings (in a more sparsely populated riding, your vote is worth more), as well allowing fringe parties more access to government. If, at the provincial level, it appears we’re moving towards a mixed system (50% electoral, 50% proportional representation (or some other mix – I believe those are the current figures)), why wouldn’t we do the same locally? (Of course, at the local level, the ‘party system’ works a little differently, so perhaps it simply doesn’t apply).
Regardless of where you stand on the wards/at-large question, please get out and vote on October 16. All you need are 2 pieces of ID if you’re not already registered. Remember, Chuck D thinks you should vote.