Tomorrow (or today as it is late) BC will ponder not only what Premier to vote for but to vote on perhaps adopting a new voting system. Currently we have the first-past-the-post system, that is very "to the winner, the spoils" in nature. The new system on the table is called STV or Single Transferable Vote. In a nutshell, after redrawing some constituencies you will have a choice between several MLA's in your riding, and you can vote for only one, but the neat thing is you can rank the MLA's by preference, so if your 1st choice wins the minimum necessary votes to be elected then the excess votes are allocated to your second choice. In thery no vote goes to waste and the elected MLA's reflect more closely the popular vote. So if your party has 30% popularity among the people, you will most like get 30% of the MLA's.
I received an e-mail telling me that some economists do not think that STV is a good thing. The one thing that never fails to amuse me is that economists and accountants, as good as they are with numbers, money and statistical models on how to make money, they miss the human element in the equation. So I wrote a reply and decided to make it a blog article as well.
This is what the Vancouver Board of Trade had to say about STV.
Board recommends "No" vote on STV
May 12, 2005
On Election Day, May 17, you will be asked to vote in a referendum on a new electoral process called Single Transferable Vote (STV).
The Board of Trade has studied the implications of STV as a voting process, and while The Board does support electoral reform, it does not support STV for the following reasons:
1. If STV had been used to elect our MLAs, in the last 35 years there would have been only one majority government.
2. Minority governments tend to be short lived, which would mean more frequent elections, leading politicians to be shortsighted in an attempt to get re-elected.
3. Constant coalition governments could threaten sound economic policy in our province.
4. The number of constituencies in the province would be drastically reduced, and the size of rural ridings would be doubled, resulting in less effective local representation.
5. In large city ridings there would be numerous MLAs, and the number of names on election ballots would be enormous.
6. The most worrisome issue is that under a STV system, a party with minority representation can end up wielding most of the power.
For example, Germany, over the past six decades, has been governed by a series of coalition governments. Generally, neither of the two largest parties in Germany receives a majority of the votes, so they must attract a smaller party to achieve a majority in their federal assembly in order to form a government. In turn, that smaller party is in a position to dictate the terms of the alliance, thereby thwarting the democratic process.
The current situation in Ottawa, where the Liberals are negotiating agreements with a smaller party in order to maintain government, is a good illustration of what would happen under the STV system.
To keep our economy strong, British Columbia needs strong leadership, especially in government, where economic policy is formed. If B.C. moves to the STV voting process it will compromise the ability of the government, from any party, to effectively lead this province.
On May 17, The Board of Trade recommends a "No" vote to STV.
This is my reply to the fat cats who obviously didn't give this enough thought.
A point-by-point rebuttal:
1.A minority government in itself is not a negative point.
2.What the Vancouver Board of Trade fail to take under consideration is that if the system changes so do the underlying motivations of the politicians. This is a necessary adjustment.
Minority governments are short-lived today because the current system encourages a majority "winner-takes-all" government. There was a real benefit in trying to bring down a minority government because there was a real chance that the usurper's party could win a majority status. With STV the risks outweigh the benefits, as there is less of a guarantee that the usurper could get anything more than a minority him/herself. STV would offer more consistent minority governments and the politicians would have to adjust or suffer the consequences.
3. And a majority government couldn’t do the same? Look to the NDP years under Glen Clark.
4. How so? The constituency maps will be redrawn and a certain amount of amalgamation will occur, but the total number of seats available across the new constituencies will equal the number of seats across the old.
5. Define enormous. 100? 1000? Currently their are 79 constituencies for 79 seats. Under STV there could be as few as 18 constituencies. On average that is 4 seats per constituency. Let’s say that urban centers are actually allocated double that, so you’ve got eight MLA’s positions to fill. Let’s assume 3 people run per position that is 24 persons to decide from. Big, but not unmanageable. This is probably the only real negative I can see about STV and it is weak.
6. Isn’t that what happens with majority governments elected by a minority of the popular vote? 1996 the NDP were elected by 40% of the popular vote to get a majority government. Under STV a party with minority representation can hold some influence as a swing voter, but that is hardly the unequaled power of the current systems majority governments.
--"For example, Germany, over the past six decades it
has been governed by a series of coalition governments. Generally, neither of the two largest parties in Germany receives a majority of the votes, so they must
attract a smaller party to achieve a majority in their federal assembly in order to form a government. In turn, that smaller party is in a position to dictate the terms of the alliance, thereby thwarting the
The democratic process is about everyone having an equal voice and making decision based on committee, not making decisions based on the whim of the ruling party. What the Germans have is what I like to call a “government that listens”, if only because it is forced to. Using their example, Germany has been doing well with minority governments for decades and I don't see their economy suffering because of it. Also I'd like to add, if parties co-operated more across the aisle there would not be a need to form coalitions where one small party weilds influence out of proportion to it's size. Less selfishness, less agenda setting, more stable governments.
--"The current situation in Ottawa, where the Liberals
are negotiating agreements with a smaller party in
order to maintain government, is a good illustration of what would happen under the STV system."--
Again comparing the federal situation in Ottawa under the first-past-the-post system and drawing the conclusion that the same will happen in BC under the STV system is erroneous as the selective pressures that drive both of these systems are very different.
--"To keep our economy strong, British Columbia needs
There is nothing to say that a minority government cannot provide strong leadership. In the end all the parties want generally the same thing, a strong and productive BC. Since when has it been to a leader’s detriment to hear out the opposition and seriously consider what they have to say? Can no good ideas arise from the opposition? An STV fueled minority government would be less adversarial and more advisor-arial.