Strategic Thoughts

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February 22, 2009

Does your vote really count?

That was the headline in a North Shore News story on the referendum question to be put before voters on May 12th. Think about objectivity when reading a News report of the February 18th debate on voting systems, the News wrote:

"Field isn't your typical political expert. Petite and curvy, the young mother who grew up on Vancouver Island barely reaches past the clear plastic podium in the library's meeting room, but when she speaks she does so with conviction and gusto. Her chin-length, sand-coloured curls bounce as she turns her head addressing the audience on both sides."

When it came to describing Field's opponent, the News wrote:

"Schreck is taking the con side of tonight's debate, looking very much the part of the political pundit in his suit and tie. The former MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale is one of only two NDP MLAs to have ever been elected on the North Shore."

It is blatantly sexist to describe Shoni Field as "Petit and curvy". I don't know what Field's hair style or my suit has to do with the merits of changing the rules used to elect MLAs.

In the February 18th debate sponsored by Langara Dialogues (which will be broadcast on Shaw Cable at 4:00 PM on February 28th), I said there are three reasons to reject BC-STV.

  1. First, multiple-member constituencies: decrease accountability, make it more difficult for constituents to have personal contact and increase campaign costs.

  2. Second, the complex vote counting rules for STV are considered unfair by many voters; someone's third preference should not be allowed to trump another person's first preference.

  3. Third, I argued that most of the positions put forward in support of BC-STV are misleading at best and false at worse. For example, they argue that political parties would be weaker under STV, but where STV is used, political parties are more powerful than they are in B.C.

The foremost argument about the North Shore is that voters on the North Shore have not embraced New Democrats; Colin Gabelmann and I are the only two to have won for the NDP in the past 50 years. Under BC-STV the North Shore would be one big electoral area with 4 MLAs where it only takes 20% of the vote to be elected. If we look at the total vote by party in 2005 for the combined four North Shore constituencies, we get Liberal 55.0%, NDP 27.1%, Green 15.8% and others 2.0%; therefore, it is highly likely that if BC-STV passes the NDP can count on usually winning one of the four seats allocated to the North Shore. It will be interesting to see if Liberals on the North Shore embrace a change in how we vote that will virtually guarantee that the NDP will win one of the seats they've traditionally held.


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