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.


Mark Greenan said...

I think it remains to be seen whether "most BC Dippers tend to like Winner-Take-All".

Certainly, Schreck and Tieleman are the loudest voices defending the status quo (although the former mostly makes disingenuous criticisms of STV and talks about how MMP is just peachy) but I understand that many Dippers are involved with the STV campaign.

While Savoie is the first BC NDP MP to endorse STV. I'd bet you a beverage of your choice that she's not the last. I'd even wager that we get higher percentage of BC NDP legislators (at both levels of government) endorsing STV than we had Ontario Liberals endorsing MMP.

Finally, a poll-by-poll comparison of NDP votes and STV votes in the last BC election, indicates that NDP voters are more likely than average voters to support STV (as are Greeen voters, who I'm sure BC Dippers would love to "get orange" in May). NDP politicians should bear this in mind before they comment publicly on STV.

Matt Guerin said...

All good points, Mark, thanks. I changed the title of the post as a result. It's all well and good for people like Schreck to speak kindly of MMP as it's not on the ballot there - kind of like Cherniak here talking kindly about every other type of electoral reform EXCEPT for the one actually being proposed...

If NDP supporters in BC tend to support STV, or do in good numbers, I would hope that would be better reflected in the leadership and backrooms of the party as well.

And Mark if your prediction/hope is correct and we get a higher percentage of NDP MLAs and MPs from BC endorsing STV than Ontario Liberal legislators who endorsed MMP, I'll happily buy you a beverage of your choice.

Wilf Day said...

BC being BC, there are all kinds. A few hard-left NDP voters in BC see STV as a right-wing plot engineered somehow by the BC Liberals. At the other extreme of the NDP, a few machine organizers think their best hope of winning is to wait for the centre-right vote to split (although it's quite united there now) and hand the NDP an unearned victory. And then there are the majority of NDP voters who, like the majority of Liberal voters, think democracy is a good idea whichever party wins. A strong majority of those who understood BC-STV in 2005 supported it. I hope Schrek and Tieleman raise their voices and spark the public debate that we mostly failed to have in Ontario. Then BC-STV will win.