Monday, April 27, 2009

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.


Rural said...

You make a good point with this post, I may "steal" some of that post in a future article. Given your header perhaps you might like to visit our blog at where this issue is but one topic of conversation.

Chrystal Ocean said...

What is described is not STV, however, which is fine given it wouldn't be appropriate in this circumstance. What is being proposed is the Alternative Vote system, which applies the preferential ballot to single-member ridings. In this case, the 'single member' is the leader to be elected and the 'riding' is the Liberal Party of Canada.