Claims about BC-STV
is unfortunate that voters will be faced with unsubstantiated
claims about what would happen if the single transferable
vote (BC-STV) were implemented for the May 2013 provincial
election. The proposed system is complicated and perhaps that
is why simple, but inaccurate, claims are made about it.
our existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) system the candidate
with the most votes in any constituency wins. With STV there
are larger constituencies that elect two to seven MLAs with
the winners being those who get a minimum percentage of the
vote; the percentage being 12.5% to 33.3% depending on the
number of MLAs to be elected in each area. In our current
FPTP system voters get one vote to elect one MLA. With STV
voters still get one vote but two to seven MLAs are elected
in their area; numbers put on each voter's ballot are instructions
on how to allocate fractions of that voter's vote under the
complicated vote counting rules.
supporters of BC-STV would prefer that the referendum be seen
as a confidence vote in the Citizens' Assembly rather than
a vote on whether BC should adopt a complicated voting system.
Two of the former members of the Citizens' Assembly are actively
working with the No BC-STV Campaign Society. They aren't the
only former Assembly members who reject BC-STV. According
to the Assembly's technical report, 31 of its members voted
to have mixed-member-proportional representation (MMP) be
the proposed system and 11 favoured our current FPTP system.
electoral reform proceeded in BC the way it did in New Zealand
(which adopted MMP), BC voters would be allowed to vote on
several options rather than just BC-STV and the current system.
In 1992 New Zealanders voted in a non-binding referendum that
gave them four alternative voting systems to choose from,
including STV and MMP. Voters were told that if a majority
favoured change, a second referendum would be held on whether
to stay with FPTP or adopt the new system. In the first referendum
70% favoured MMP, which was subsequently adopted in the second
referendum held in 1993. British Columbians will not be given
the option to vote for MMP even though a majority of the submissions
made to the Citizens' Assembly favoured that system.
also had a Citizens' Assembly; it recommended MMP which was
subsequently turned down in the province's 2007 referendum.
If BC repeated its experiment with a randomly chosen Citizens'
Assembly, the new Assembly might follow the example of Ontario
or it might go in an entirely different direction, but no
one could assume that it would support BC-STV.
a recent email a BC-STV supporter argued that: "We currently
have an archaic system that enables far too much party influence,
safe-seats, the majority of voters being ruled by the minority,
and clear lack of representation in the legislature. We also
have a decrease in voter turnout because of frustration with
the aforementioned situation." None of those points are
correct, but they are often repeated by supporters of STV.
Consider each point in the argument by looking at both FPTP
"fact sheets" from the Citizens' Assembly argued
that party discipline may be weakened, but consider how STV
works in Malta, Australia and Ireland. In Malta since 1950
only two parties have succeeded in electing representatives.
In Australia 98% of those voting in senate elections choose
to vote in what they call "above-the-line" voting
where they cast one vote for their party rather than rank
candidates themselves. In Ireland the central party determines
how many candidates will run in each electoral area and central
parties sometimes place their own candidate rather than one
selected by local "selection conventions". The claim
that parties are weaker under STV seems to be based on most
BC voters not knowing much about politics in Malta, Australia
or Ireland. Check it out for yourself by entering the search
term "Republic of Ireland selection convention"
Irish selection conventions each party sets strategy around
the number of seats it knows it can win. Unlike BC where the
winner in a "safe-seat" must take 40% or more of
the vote, a politician in Ireland can be safe with as little
at the political histories of the leaders of Ireland's Fianna
Fail. For example, former leader Bertie
Ahern, re-elected in 2007, was first elected in 1977 at
the age of 26. When you use ElectionsIreland.org
to check on Irish politicians you'll see that the site also
provides links to their elected relatives. Politics seem to
be a family affair in Ireland and many politicians last far
longer than BC MLAs.
of voters being ruled by the minority
is a mistake to assume that everyone who didn't vote for the
party in power is of one mind and would therefore agree on
an alternative government.
is true that FPTP is more likely to produce majority governments
from parties that win less than 50% of the total vote. If
that is a problem there are a number of ways to fix it, including
runoff elections. The solution in Ireland, and countries that
use MMP, is to have coalition governments. We recently saw
the shock Canadians displayed when confronted with the prospect
of a coalition government. Some argue that there would be
less shock if parties campaigned saying that they would enter
into a coalition, but parties don't do that. They form coalitions
after the election when they know what they have to work with.
For example, after the 2007 election in Ireland Fianna Fail
entered into a coalition with the Greens after depending on
just the Progressive Democrats to support them in their previous
coalition. The coalition partners change but Fianna Fail remains
the dominant party, majority or not.
of representation in the legislature
Columbia has a rich history of many parties being represented
in the legislature. In 1991 MLAs from the NDP, the Liberals,
Social Credit and Reform were all elected. In the following
election a new party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance
was represented in the legislature. In the 1970s BC had Social
Credit, NDP, Liberal and Conservative MLAs.
"fact-sheet" on the Citizens' Assembly website claims
that BC-STV is fair because it is proportional. That is not
true. BC-STV would result in fundamentally different voting
systems in different parts of the province. Anything resembling
proportionality is unlikely to be achieved in the four proposed
electoral areas that would elect two or three MLAs, and even
in the Capital Region with seven MLAs it would take 12.5%
of the vote to get elected. Many MMP systems guarantee representation
to parties who achieve 5% or more of the vote.
has been shown in Malta where as recently as 2008 the party
that won the highest percentage of the vote won the fewest
number of seats, STV does not guarantee proportionality.
is true that voter turnout has been declining, but that is
phenomenon, including in Ireland with STV.
that BC-STV will cure all that ails you cannot be supported.
A comparison of our present voting system and BC-STV should
be based on the facts of how votes are cast and counted, not
imaginary properties. Our current system is easily understood
and has served British Columbia well for most of the last
150 years. BC-STV is complex and used in so few places that
it is difficult to predict what would happen if we gambled
and adopted it for BC.