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.