Sunday, May 10, 2009

First-Past-The-Post is like a bad waiter who brings food you didn't order...

British Columbians go to the polls on Tuesday to elect both a new government (using our archaic, vote-distorting Winner-Take-All/First-Past-The-Post system) and to vote in a crucial referendum on electoral reform.

A recent poll shows the NDP trailing the Liberals by 2 per cent (42% to 44% respectively). Under a sane voting system, that would translate into a narrow Liberal minority government. But under our crazy, existing system, that could very well translate into a NDP majority government, like it did in 1996 when a three-point gap in the vote handed the second-place party all the power for five more years!

B.C. Liberals should remember how they felt the morning after the 1996 election, when they had been shut out of power by our voting system despite winning the vote. That scenario could repeat itself on Tuesday and the only way to ensure it never happens again after this election is to vote for BC-STV. Enough of our crazy, vote-distorting First-Past-The-Post system! The time to fix it is now and hopefully as many Liberal voters in B.C. as possible will agree.

To those who are fighting to keep our archaic system because it lines their pockets and hands their parties all the power with only a minority of votes, I say 'Shame on You!' You're the same types of people who would've opposed extending the franchise to Aboriginals, to women, to non-land owners, etc. in the past because such a change would've undermined your hold on power. And today, you're still up to your nasty little tricks. I hope voters ignore your distortions and vote for change.

To those voters still making up your minds, let me repeat this scenario I wrote a couple weeks ago:

Can you imagine if you placed an order at a drive thru for two hamburgers, two fries and two bottles of water - and instead when you got to the window, they handed you four fish pies and some asparagus? Or if you sat down at a restaurant and ordered some sushi and green tea, and instead they brought you a piece of pork loin, potatoes and coffee and forced you to pay for it? Would you be annoyed? Of course you would.

Yet this is how our current voting system works. The voters head to the polls and vote one way - and the First-Past-The-Post system spits out something they didn't ask for. If BC-STV passes, this will never happen again at the provincial level in British Columbia.


If you like getting what you didn't order, vote to keep our archaic, vote-distorting system. If you actually want to get what you ask for in elections, vote for the Single Transferable Vote.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark endorses BC-STV

Have a look at this great video by a great woman, Christy Clark, now out of politics, who says she opposed STV in 2005 because she knew it would be bad for politicians and backroom types. Now out of politics, she's seen the light. VOTE BC-STV for fair election results that make sense and reflect the society that voted.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

B.C. POLL: Liberals 42%, NDP 39% - Is that a mandate for a NDP Majority? First Past The Post says YES...

In the 1996 British Columbia election, the B.C. Liberals won 42% of the vote while the NDP won 39%. Unbelievably, that translated into a NDP majority with 39 out of 75 seats (the Liberals won 33 in that election, 2 Reform incumbents held their seats, as did one Progressive Democratic Alliance incumbent.) The NDP went on to govern for five more years.

With the Liberals and NDP at exactly the same levels of support in a poll released last night, it begs the question: what happens if another three-point lead translates, once again, into a defeat for the Liberals in the 2009 election?

If you lose the vote by 3 per cent, does that represent a mandate to govern with a majority? Under Winner-Take-All/First-Past-The-Post, the answer is an unfortunate YES. This is the problem with our existing system: it distorts voters' wishes.

Politicians and sleazy backroom types (like those running the NO-STV campaign in B.C.) like the current system because it hands them power even when they clearly don't deserve it (see the former NDP staffers like David Schreck who benefited from the crazy 1996 First-Past-The-Post result for examples.)

All B.C. Liberals should remember well what inspired them to explore the issue of electoral reform in the first place: the great need for a fairer system. Just in case First-Past-The-Post produces yet another crazy result this year, perhaps it's best to vote YES to BC-STV so that, in the future, the party with the most votes actually wins the election. Food for thought.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New TV ad for BC-STV! "Fair Results"

Check out this great new ad put out by the Yes to BC-STV side in the B.C. referendum to be held May 12th.

First-Past-The-Post is clearly a broken voting system that doesn't deliver representative legislatures in Canada. BC-STV represents the best chance for electoral reform in Canada. For more information, go to stv.ca. And congrats to the Yes side for this great ad.

Federal Liberals propose STV for electing national leaders: If it's good enough for Liberals, why isn't it good enough for Canadians?

At our national convention in Vancouver this week, federal Liberals will consider a proposal for changing how we elect national leaders.

"The one-member-one-vote proposal for choosing a party leader was narrowly defeated at the 2006 Liberal convention in Montreal, in 2006, however it's expected that it will be adopted this time around. The national executive has put forward a proposal whereby each riding association will be assigned 100 points and individual party members will rank their choices for leader on a single transferable ballot.

In each round of vote-counting, the candidate with the lowest number of points, which will be allotted according to percentage so that urban ridings with more members don't get more influence than rural ridings, will be dropped from the ballot and everyone who put that person as their first choice will then have their second choice counted. The vote-counting process continues until one candidate gets a majority of points nationally, and then that person becomes the leader."


To read more about this week's convention, please click here.

It's coincidental that Liberals will be considering this proposal in British Columbia, where a referendum on adopting the Single Transferable Vote in provincial elections is also being considered by voters.

There have been many Liberals who continue to oppose any opportunity to dump our antiquated, 'Winner-Take-All/First-Past-The-Post' voting system in Canada. Many of them will be present at the Vancouver convention, without a doubt. One wonders how these Liberals will vote on the proposal at the convention.

I have a few questions: If the Single Transferable Vote is good enough for electing a national leader and Prime Minister, why wouldn't it be good enough for electing our legislatures? How can those Liberals who are dead set against any type of proportional voting system for Canadians (because such systems might undermine their quest for power) then turn around and support a democratic provision like the one being proposed at the Vancouver convention?

Why don't those same Liberals who support First-Past-The-Post also support such a system for electing national leaders too? Or indeed local candidates? Wouldn't that be more efficient? Whoever leads on the first ballot would automatically win the leadership. Who needs majority support when you can grab power for yourself by simply winning the most votes? If you support First-Past-The-Post for all Canadians, why don't you also support it for Liberals?


Of course I ask these questions a bit in jest. I favour proportional voting that actually reflects how people voted. I also think 50 per cent plus one constitutes a majority, unlike others who favour First-Past-The-Post.

If one doesn't have majority support from voters, how can one be seen as legitimate? The truth is they can't. This principle has long been adopted by Liberals when it comes to electing leaders or candidates. Sadly, not as many Liberals have embraced the same principle when it comes to all voters electing legislatures. For them, a system designed to award complete power based simply on a plurality of support is good enough.

Sometimes even coming in second in the vote is enough to win total power under First-Past-The-Post. How can Liberals and others who support our existing voting system in Canada call themselves democrats? I'm truly not sure. If your lust for power and desire for a quick, convenient result trumps your support for fair, democratic representation, what does that say about you as a person? One has to wonder.

In any event, I truly hope the single transferable vote proposal of efficiently and fairly electing national leaders is passed this weekend in Vancouver.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poll: 65 per cent of British Columbians support BC-STV

It appears that the pro-change side has a decisive lead with less than a month to go before British Columbians vote in the May 12th referendum/election. According to Angus Reid, 65% of B.C. voters intend to support BC-STV next month. Among those between ages 18 to 34, support runs at 74 per cent. The poll was conducted in March.

May's referendum marks the second time in four years in which British Columbians have the opportunity to fix their broken electoral system. In 2005, 58% of them voted for change, but thanks to the government-imposed 60% threshold, change was thwarted.

It's strange that 39% is enough to elect a majority government in B.C., while 59.9% isn't enough to change the electoral system. Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949 with just over 50% of the vote. Why do we continue to quietly accept this artificial 60% barrier imposed by partisan politicians who are clearly doing everything they can to keep the current system?

Regardless, if the Angus Reid poll is to be believed, supporters of fair voting may soon witness their first taste of major victory in Canada. No doubt, those on the No side who believe it's right for one party with fewer votes than the opposition to form a majority government, and those who love the idea of forcing a narrow agenda supported by a minority of voters down the throats of the majority, will find these poll numbers discouraging. If BC-STV is passed, backroom hacks and politicians who used to rely on safe seats and a divided opposition to slip through and win power and unchecked control for four or five years will have to re-think their game plan. Thus far, the No side in B.C. has seen fit to paint STV as too confusing for average voters. They're pointing to allegedly complicated counting processes as reason enough to keep our current system.

Of course, few dare to mention that the formula used to translate votes into seats under our existing system is wildly unpredictable at best. 40% of the vote could translate into both a large majority government, or see a party almost wiped out completely under our existing system.

Can you imagine if you placed an order at a drive thru for two hamburgers, two fries and two bottles of water - and instead when you got to the window, they handed you four fish pies and some asparagus? Would you be annoyed? Of course you would. Yet this is how our current voting system works. The voters head to the polls and vote one way - and the First-Past-The-Post system spits out something they didn't ask for. If BC-STV passes next month, this will never happen again at the provincial level in British Columbia.


I had always hoped with enough education that Canadians would see for themselves how terrible our existing First-Past-The-Post/Winner-Take-All system truly is - and that changing it as soon as possible must be a priority. I've contributed to the Yes to BC-STV campaign and I strongly encourage all supporters of change to do the same in order to keep this substantial lead intact for the May 12th vote. British Columbians have an opportunity to lead the nation next month. I'm hopeful they'll take it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Facebook group Liberals for BC-STV launched...

Liberal Party supporters in favour of the British Columbia - Single Transferable Vote option before B.C. voters in a referendum on May 12th (being held in conjunction with the provincial election) have launched a new Facebook group called 'Liberals for BC-STV.' Click here to link to the new group and join!

This site officially endorses BC-STV as the best option for improving democracy in our western-most province, which has seen its share of bizarre, distorted election results courtesy of our existing 'Winner-Take-All/First-Past-The-Post' system. In 1996, the NDP won a MAJORITY government in B.C. despite trailing the B.C. Liberals by three per cent in the popular vote. Then in 2001, the B.C. Liberals won 97% of the seats with just 58% of the vote. In the last election, 46% support for the B.C. Liberals handed that party 58% of the seats and 100% of the power.

So British Columbians are well aware of the flaws of our existing voting system! That's why that province's Citizens' Assembly recommended a change to BC-STV. For more on the great improvements that BC-STV will bring, click here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

BC REFERENDUM IS CRITICAL FOR ALL CANADIANS

A message from Roy Ball, British Columbians for BC-STV:

We need your help in British Columbia.

This week marks the start of the election campaign here and included on the ballot is a critical referendum on electoral reform. It's a rare second chance that we're getting because we got nearly 58% support in a referendum four years ago. However, the threshold was, and is, set at an unprecedented 60% of the vote. Your support could help push us over the top.

In Canada there is no place closer than BC to making change happen. If we win this referendum the momentum of electoral reform could sweep across the country. British Columbia would be the biggest jurisdiction in North America to adopt change and voters everywhere could see fair voting in action.

You can help make history by making a donation at http://www.stv.ca/support.

It won't be easy. Electoral reform has recently been defeated in PEI and Ontario. In each case the NO side launched misleading, negative, scare tactic campaigns. Here, their pollsters have already started testing fear-based messaging on our voters. Our opponents believe that if they can scare off voters here then electoral reform in Canada will stopped.

This time we will be better prepared for their attacks. Already we've got the momentum on the internet and have had thousands of people sign up at stv.ca to make a contribution or volunteer their time.

We're better organized. In 2005 BC referendum campaign, we had one part-time staff, very little organization across the province and around 200 active supporters. Today we have five full-time staff and thousands of active supporters throughout the province. We're also way ahead of our fundraising from last time and have internal polling showing momentum is on our side. Currently, we are polling slightly above the 60% threshold we need to win. BUT – the other side also has much more funding than in 2005 – we haven’t faced the half a million dollar negative ad campaign our opponents are planning for the end of the campaign. That's why we need your help today.

This race is extremely tight, so anything you can raise will significantly increase our chances to win. Please consider making a significant donation today - the timing has never been so critical.

Make a donation at http://www.stv.ca/support

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Best Regards,
Roy Ball
British Columbians for BC-STV
rballgp@imagotrackers.com

Please Support the BC Citizen's Assembly's Recommendation on Electoral Reform
On May 12 ... Vote for Better Democracy, Vote for BC-STV
http://www.stv.ca

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Danielle Takacs' Case for Electoral Reform; another NDP MP from BC endorses STV...

Liberal blogger Danielle Takacs posted The Case for Electoral Reform from a Liberal Perspective today on her popular blog. The well-written post lays out four main reasons why Liberals should support electoral reform in Canada. Check them out here.

Out in B.C., where voters will again cast judgment this May on the First-Past-the-Post system which handed the NDP under Glen Clark a majority government in 1996 despite trailing in the vote by three percent, the battle continues.

NDP backroom pundit David Schreck (who used to work for Glen Clark) has been campaigning vigorously against the new BC-STV system, distorting issues in favour of our broken voting system. But it seems even Schreck's fellow New Democrats aren't listening to him, as another NDP MP from B.C. is now publicly in favour of change.

************UPDATE*************

Danielle Takacs writes further today on how Electoral Reform Is a National Unity Issue.

************UPDATE #2************

Takacs posts again about The Daunting Prospects of a Liberal Majority Under First Past the Post: Why Liberals Should Prefer a Preferential Balloting System While I do agree that Instant-Run-Off voting is better than our current Single-Member Plurality system, I don't view it as a major improvement over it. If we are to embark on real electoral reform, we should move to a good form of proportional representation that still ensures that voters have the final say over who's elected, not political parties. For me, that system is STV.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Victoria's NDP MP endorses BC-STV; many B.C. Dippers tend to like 'Winner-Take-All'

At least one of the federal NDP's Members of Parliament from British Columbia is endorsing change in this May's provincial referendum on electoral reform.

“I will support STV,” said Denise Savoie, the MP for Victoria. It's a personal position, she said, not that of her party. “I'm not sure that's the best alternative, but it's better than the system we have.”

The British Columbia NDP will not take an official position on STV, but some of the strongest voices against the change in that province include those of former party strategist David Schreck and Bill Tieleman, who was an adviser to former Premier Glen Clark.

This makes sense perhaps as the B.C. NDP won a majority government in 1996 despite trailing the Liberals by three percent of the vote. That 1996 election result remains one of Winner-Take-All's biggest foul-ups, handing re-election to Glen Clark despite trailing considerably in the popular vote. Clark went on to bury what was left of that province's fragile economy, stretching out what should've been five years of NDP rule into ten.

It's interesting to note that most New Democrats in places like Ontario, plus federal NDP'ers like Savoie and federal leader Jack Layton, favour switching to a proportional representation voting system. However, in provinces where the New Democrats traditionally vie for power (like B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba), most of that progressive, pro-change idealism seems to go out the window. The Saskatchewan NDP only proposed possible electoral reform after enjoying government for 16 years, and that party's defeat in 2007 ensured the issue would continue to go ignored for the foreseeable future in that province. Shame.

No doubt, many Liberal, Tory and other party supporters in areas where those parties traditionally win false majorities under Winner-Take-All also tend to oppose electoral reform because to do so means less power for them (we experienced many hostile, anti-change Liberals in the 2007 Ontario referendum). So Savoie's support of fair voting in her home province, where her own party sometimes wins under Winner-Take-All, is to be commended.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nick Loenen on B.C.'s Citizens’ Assembly: An experiment in democracy

The battle has begun again to reform British Columbia's voting system. As in 2005, voters will be able to cast judgment on the existing 'Winner-Take-All' voting system in B.C., or choose BC-STV (or British-Columbia's Single Transferable Vote system) as recommended by that province's Citizens' Assembly a few years ago.

Loenen was a former Social Credit legislator from Richmond, B.C. and he writes eloquently about the need for change. Please expect more useful links on this site as we get closer to B.C.'s voting day on May 12.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why is the Toronto Star so obsessed with saving 'Winner-Take-All'?

Yet again today, the Toronto Star editorial board saw fit to use this week's Israeli election as an excuse to rail against any form of proportional representation.

Readers will recall how, in the heat of the 2007 Ontario referendum campaign, the Toronto Star frequently printed misinformation about the proposed electoral reform called Mixed Member Proportional. The Star's Kerry Gillespie wrote in a news article printed on the front page that some Ontario MPPs under that system would be "appointed" to the legislature, when in fact they would be elected from province-wide party lists. No corrections were made, falsehoods were allowed to fester in the public's mind, all the while the mainstream, private media, like the Star, continued to rail against the threat of religious minorities "seizing" control of our legislature using the "3% threshold".

If the Star is so frightened by the prospect of 3% or 5% of voters getting the same percentage of seats in legislatures and wielding what little power they have, why is the Star not also equally frightened by a voting system that hands one single party with as little as 35% of the vote a majority of the seats?

The Star argues that we should tremble should a small party get one of its policy planks implemented in a coalition government agenda. But give one party full and unchecked power to implement its entire agenda on the public with only 35% of the vote, and that is perfectly alright, the Star argues. That's how 'Winner-Take-All' works and it's certainly not democratic.

We should think clearly and carefully about what is really motivating the Star to go out of its way so often to rail against any type of voting reform. Whose interests are they really trying to defend? Certainly not average Canadians, who frequently see their votes unreflected in the make-up of the House of Commons, or their provincial legislatures (only unless they voted for the one winner in their riding.)

The Star uses the Israeli example to argue that all forms of proportional representation should be shunned. In truth, the majority of democracies around the world use some form of PR. Israel is one of the few that uses the pure list system and with its very diverse society we see the kinds of results we saw this week. In truth, if 'First-Past-The-Post'/'Winner-Take-All' were in place in Israel instead, it's entirely possible that the second place Likud party would have won the election as First Past The Post has a tendency to skew voters' wishes badly and sometimes even hands power to the second-place party.

Why doesn't the Star mention that most European countries use PR and, for the most part, are models of stability? Meanwhile countries like Canada, the U.S. and Britain mostly use First-Past-The-Post and our countries seem no better off in this economic downturn.

Coalitions under PR are not the same as coalitions under our current system (Winner-Take-All). Coalitions or minority governments under our current system normally last two years or so as the temptation to pull the plug and force an election can be so great (see what Stephen Harper pulled last fall for a classic example). When a party sees its support go up in the polls from 35% to 38% under our system, backroom political hacks are inclined to go to the polls because suddenly it looks like they might be in what the mainstream media calls "majority territory."

Ask your average high school or even elementary school student if 38% or 40% is "majority territory" and you'll be laughed at and receive an 'F'.

Under PR, winning an extra 3% of the vote does not translate into an extra 10% to 15% more seats. As a result, politicians are forced to work rather than play partisan games and coalitions form stable majority governments which generally last their full term of office.

Under PR, all votes are counted and reflected in the make-up of the legislature. Under 'Winner-Take-All', less than half of votes cast have any impact on the make-up of the legislature. Under PR, no party with less than 50% of the votes can force its agenda onto the people. Under our current system, this is a regular occurrence.

Shouldn't the Toronto Star be equally frightened by this reality? And if not, why not?