is Not Reform
1 a: to put or change into an improved form
or condition b: to amend or improve by change of form or removal
of faults or abuses.
definition of "reform" is why a change from our
current electoral system to the single transferable vote,
BC-STV, cannot be called "electoral reform". STV
is not an improvement as it would move B.C. back to the days
of constituencies with more than one MLA.
are a problem that plagues serious consideration of BC-STV.
Proponents argue that it would give British Columbians fair
election results, effective local representation and greater
voter choice. In the words of one member of the Assembly:
"The problem is I've had people say why did you choose
a non-proportional system?" She went on to propose a
solution, approved by the Assembly, of claiming that BC-STV
would deliver: "Fair election results through proportionality."
Other members of the Assembly said that many systems are fair,
including our current system. It is surprising that it took
until one of the last meetings of the Assembly to have a hurried,
15 minute, debate on the concepts of fairness and proportionality.
Don't take my word, click on the tape for the second session
on November 27th and listen from 23 minutes into the tape
through 37 minutes into it (MP3
format, 14Mb). Alternatively, consider whether STV delivers
proportionality and what is fair.
in Malta have found that STV cannot be counted on to provide
proportionality. On four occasions with the use of STV, including
their last election in 2008, voters in Malta gave a higher
percentage of the vote to a party that won fewer seats. After
the constitutional crisis that caused in 1981, Malta amended
its constitution to add seats when STV produces results that
are so unfair. Ontario's Assembly went further in considering
what is fair and said it might require that each vote carry
an equal weight in electing MLAs. STV doesn't do that as fractions
of some votes get distributed to several candidates while
others don't. More fundamentally, BC-STV operates differently
in electoral areas with 2 or 3 MLAs from what it does in areas
with 6 or 7 MLAs. That is not fair.
claim that BC-STV would provide effective local representation
defies logic. In large multiple-MLA electoral areas, all of
the MLAs could come from one community and former single member
constituencies could end up with no MLA living within its
boundaries. More fundamental is the concept of equal effective
representation as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada when
it dealt with electoral boundaries. It is hard to see how
there can be equal effective representation between the Northeast
with 2 MLAs and the Capital Region with 7 MLAs when one would
elect MLAs with 33.3% of the vote and the other with just
12.5%. Neither the B.C. Citizens' Assembly nor the government
has published a constitutional opinion on whether that inequality
would withstand a Charter challenge, but you can be almost
certain that a court decision would be necessary before the
implementation of BC-STV.
defining choice, the B.C. Citizens' Assembly "fact sheet"
claimed that BC-STV gives voters more choice. In its November
2005 report, Ontario's
Select Committee on Electoral Reform said: "Measuring
voter choice may include the number of votes, categorical
(i.e., one choice) versus ordinal (or preferential) balloting,
the opportunity for vote-splitting (i.e., between parties,
between candidates, or between party and candidate), the number
of candidates and the number and diversity of political parties."
With our current system every voter gets one vote to elect
one MLA, but with BC-STV every voter would get one vote to
elect two or more MLAs. STV offers preferential balloting,
but the numbers are instructions which may or may not come
into play during the count; they are not separate votes. STV
may offer the opportunity for vote-splitting for those voters
whose vote is split into two or more fractions for redistribution,
but transfer analysis in areas that use STV show that feature
is not commonly used. B.C. has more political parties than
Ireland and under our current system parties as diverse as
Social Credit, Reform, Liberals, NDP and PDA have held seats
at the same time. In Ireland one political party Fianna Fáil
has held power for most of the country's history. It takes
a very unusual and narrow definition of choice to claim that
STV offers more choice.
current electoral system is fairer and provides better representation
and more choice than anything BC-STV could deliver.