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.