On May 12th, the voters in the province of British Columbia will be asked if they would like to change the way they elect their provincial government.
They will be offered two choices: to remain with the current system or to adopt a system based on a single transferrable vote, commonly called the STV.
While people may not like the existing system, the STV will be much worse for the province. Do not confuse a dislike for the current system with a preference for the STV.
1 More Minority Governments – The STV is a form of proportional representation which attempts to ensure that the percentage of MLAs elected from each party matches the percentage of the total popular vote received by that party. Therefore it will be harder for any one party to elect more than half of the MLAs. The effect of this is that more minority governments will be produced, making it harder to govern the province. Minority governments will also lead to more frequent elections and the formation of unusual coalitions as we have seen in recent federal politics.
2 Less Popular Parties Holding the Balance of Power – Minority governments will need to build coalitions among different parties to get the support of a majority of MLAs in order to form government and to pass legislation. With proportional representation, we are more likely to see parties with only a small percent of the vote, like the Marijuana Party, win seats. Concessions will need to be made to these small parties to get important legislation passed. Will we have to stop enforcing federal drug laws in order to get a provincial budget passed? We may see a lot more “pork” in British Columbia, similar to what happens in the United States, where one small group can require that the rest of the province give them what they want in order for the legislature to do its job.
3 Ridings Too Large – The ridings in rural British Columbia will be very large, making it even harder for the MLAs to connect with their constituents.
4 Unequal Treatment– The number of MLAs elected from each of the new 20 ridings will not be the same. Some ridings will have two MLAs and others will have seven MLAs and all the others will be somewhere in between. With the proportionality of the STV, the ridings with two MLAs are very likely to elect MLAs from only the two most popular parties, currently the BC Liberal Party and the NDP. There is very little chance in those ridings of electing MLAs from any other party. However, in ridings with more MLAs there is a much greater chance of electing MLAs from other parties. This is consistent with the proportional nature of the STV; however, not all ridings are treated equally. Those in ridings with a larger number of MLAs will have a greater chance of electing MLAs from parties who traditionally receive a smaller percentage of the vote, like the Marijuana Party. That may be good or bad, depending on your perspective, but it is not equal treatment for all voters in the Province. All citizens of British Columbia have a right to equal treatment, especially in electing a government. This unequal treatment, combined with the balance of power, will result in those ridings with a larger number of MLAs being more likely to elect the MLAs who will hold the balance of power. Ridings with only two or three MLAs will almost certainly elect only MLAs from the two largest parties, but ridings with five, six or seven MLAs are much more likely to elect MLAs from other parties. So if you really want your vote to count, and you want to elect MLAs that will hold the balance of power, you are out of luck in if you are in Fort Nelson or Dawson Creek – Victoria is the place to be!
5 Different results in By-Elections – The unequal treatment continues in by-elections. The procedure for voting and counting the ballots in a by-election is the same as a general election, but usually one MLA is to be elected. Therefore it is extremely likely that the MLA will be from one of the most popular parties in BC, currently the BC Liberal Party and the NDP. It is much less likely in a by-election than in a general election that winner of the election will be from a party that traditionally receives a smaller percentage of the vote. So if an MLA from a party that received a small percentage of the votes resigns, it is very unlikely that they will be replaced by a member of their own party.
6 Complicated Counting System – The STV system is a very complicated, very hard to understand and very hard to explain. Any system for electing a government in a free and democratic society should be understood by all voters. Do you know if it is better for a party’s supporters to mark the same person as their number one choice or to split their number one choice among each of their party’s candidates in a particular riding? To find the answer takes some work. Should it?
7 Who won? – Sometimes no one will win - the STV does not fill all of the seats in the legislature in all circumstance. This is because there is no rule to adjust the “Quota” required in the event that there are not sufficient votes remaining to elect all MLAs in a riding after the “Exhausted Ballots” are removed. The result is that in certain circumstances, not enough MLAs will be elected to fill all the seats. An extreme example would be if not all the MLAs are elected on the first count and no one marks a second or subsequent choice. There is a rule dealing with the situation where all but one of the candidates to be elected have been elected, but it does not deal with the situation where more than one of the candidates to be elected have not been elected. Not only is the STV flawed, it is so complex that even those who created the system do not understand it well enough to know that it does not always work. Clearly the STV is not the way to go, even for those who not like the current system.
Vote NO to STV!