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January 8, 2009

BC-STV Kickoff

The first word in STV is "single", single transferable vote. That is exactly what it is, a single vote, even though from two to seven MLAs would be elected in each of the 20 multiple-MLA constituencies.

The "Working to Win - STV for BC Conference" scheduled for the weekend of January 10-11 cost $145, with dinner $195. As of January 7th the dinner is sold out.

It would be interesting to see if the conference's presentation on "countering STV myths" deals with claims made by proponents that BC-STV would be like Ireland's voting system. STV is also used in Malta and Australia but what it produces there, a two party system in Malta and party slates with predetermined slate votes for the Australian senate, isn't what its proponents desire for BC. Don't count on the conference exposing the myth that BC-STV would be like STV in Ireland, a country with the same population as BC but few other similarities. Ireland is 87% Catholic and over 90% white; its area is 70,280 sq km (BC's is 944,735 sq km). Ireland has 166 Members of Parliament; BC will have only 85 MLAs, half the representation spread over mountains and valleys covering more than 13 times as much geography.

Opponents of BC-STV in the 2005 referendum organized under the banner KNOW STV. That title was chosen in the belief that the more people know about STV, the more likely they are to oppose it. You can start with how votes are counted, keeping in mind that proponents of STV claim that it is not important to understand the vote count. That's the kind of attitude the led some people to believe that it was not important to understand how Madoff looked after their money.

The government will soon announce which groups have been chosen to be the publicly funded opponent and proponent organizations for the May 12th referendum. People who worked under the title KNOW STV in the 2005 campaign have organized for the 2009 referendum as the "No BC-STV Campaign Society". The old KNOW STV website hasn't been updated as we are waiting to see who is designated as the publicly funded opponent organization.

The Green Party was successful in lobbying the provincial government to amend the referendum regulation so as to allow political parties to publicize their position on the referendum. We can look forward to the Greens campaigning together with the official proponent for the adoption of BC-STV. Unfortunately for the Greens, STV does not guarantee anything like the proportional voting systems of New Zealand or Germany, so even if BC-STV is adopted, the Greens are likely to remain outside the legislature.

The big challenge for both sides in the 2009 referendum campaign is to discuss BC-STV with 1.7 million or more people who will vote, but who find discussion of alternative voting systems tedious and boring. The majority of voters are right that studying the details of BC-STV rivals pharmaceuticals for inducing sleep, but we will all be living with the consequences of the May 12th referendum for decades to come. The referendum doesn't provide for a one time experiment; it provides for a permanent change in how British Columbians elect their legislature and government. It would be worthwhile to learn how BC-STV can make your vote worth less.

 
 

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