Wednesday, August 15, 2007

KNOW STV says new BC Electoral Boundaries Commission ridings map for Single Transferable Vote shows STV would be disaster

KNOW STV - a group I helped form to fight against the Single Transferable Vote in the 2005 BC referendum on electoral change - has today responded to the report released today by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The Commission report includes a BC ridings map under a Single Transferable Vote electoral system.

The KNOW STV news release is below.


Wednesday August 15, 2007

KNOW STV says BC Electoral Boundaries Commission ridings map for Single Transferable Vote System shows why voters should vote NO in 2009 referendum – STV unrepresentative and unaccountable

VANCOUVER – A group that successfully opposed the Single Transferable Vote or STV electoral system in the 2005 referendum says today’s release of a report by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission shows why British Columbians need to vote NO to STV in the 2009 referendum.

KNOW STV Director Andrea Reimer says the ridings proposed under STV would be huge, unrepresentative and unaccountable to voters. And Reimer said many of the ridings outlined by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission would not provide the fair proportional outcomes that STV supporters claim the system creates.

“The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission has done the people of the province an enormous favour by clearly illustrating exactly why the Single Transferable Vote would be a disaster for British Columbia,” Reimer said. “STV would create giant ridings where many communities would not have local representation and where the MLAs elected would have to serve ridiculously large geographic areas.”

Reimer said that STV would also not provide any real proportional representation for the three proposed North and North Central BC ridings or for ridings in the Columbia-Kootenay or Okanagan-Boundary regions because they would only have two or three MLAs per riding.

“Some voters would be treated like second-class citizens under STV,” Reimer said. ”To get any real degree of proportional representation a riding under STV would need to have a lot more MLAs – but even in Vancouver and Victoria, where they are proposing five or six MLAs, STV is nowhere near as proportional as other electoral systems being considered in places like Ontario or already used elsewhere in the world.”

KNOW STV director Bill Tieleman said the organization, which brought together representatives from a wide range of political backgrounds from NDP to BC Liberal to Green to Social Credit, will once again fight for a NO vote in the referendum, to be held concurrent with the May 12, 2009 provincial election.

“The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission’s proposed STV ridings will make our job a lot easier than in 2005, when no one know what the ridings would look like,” Tieleman said. “Now we can go to voters and explain what would happen to them under STV, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

Tieleman pointed to the Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding, which under STV would be lumped into one huge riding with the north half of Vancouver Island.

“How can Sechelt and Gibsons residents expect accountable representation when they have less than 25% of the votes in this STV riding?” Tieleman asked. “And how can MLAs fairly act on behalf of constituents in a riding that stretches from Port Hardy to Tofino to Campbell River to Powell River to Sechelt? How could constituents even visit the office of their MLAs?”


macadavy said...

Spot on, Bill (as usual!). Now wadda we gotta do to get a decent MMP system? For sure First-Past-the-Post has got to go!

Jeff Barkley said...

I agree with you Bill, but to me the fact that it is a complex voting system, that would require computers to be used to produce results in a timely fashion, adds the entire "diebold voting machine controversy" to the mix. We simply can't trust computer voting, because any computer can be hacked. It doesn't matter how advanced the tech is supposed to be, it has been proven time after time, that it can and will be compromised. At least with a paper ballot it is tracable and easy to find where something has been manipulated. Thanks for the great article, again, Bill.

Budd Campbell said...

I attended a meeting of the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission nearly a year ago. There was one Citizen's Assembly-STV advocate there, who was clearly passionate about his belief in that system. But he couldn't explain it any better than anyone else could and was clearly a 1993 Preston Manning populist, opposed to special status for Quebec and opposed to anything coming out of Ottawa or Ontario, and opposed to anything "politically correct", and opposed as well to a suggestion I made.

I put forward the idea that in urban and suburban ridings account should be taken of large immigrant populations, and that in rural areas account should be taken of large Aboriginal populations. Since these are difficult to serve populations, with communications hurdles and high rates of social problems, MLAs representing areas with larger than average concentrations of these demographic groups would need to be given the same kind of trade off, less total population, as is customarily given to those representing the most remote and ranging geography.

The STV man didn't like this, but the Commission representative pointed out that they were thinking about this idea, because in Alberta the recognition of Aboriginal and immigrant populations is recognized in their redistribution statute as a factor to be considered.

A. G. Tsakumis said...

I'm not really sure who it was that started with the brain fart that created any discussion of this obviously ill-conceived proposal, but he or she should be tarred and feathered, twice.

Budd Campbell's comments should be required reading for anyone even considering supporting STV. It's not necessary and quite bizarre, that at a time when we are looking for more intensive ways of addressing the public's concerns, that we would be concocting a manner by which we run hastily in the other direction.

I urge all British Columbians to vote against STV.

Tieleman, sign me up, I'm happy to join the KNOW STV group.

Sally said...

I don't support STV, but I can't support KNOW STV, either, because I take it from Andrea Reimer's comments that the organization is in favour of more extreme proportional representation, and MORE MLAs. I guess her rationale is that the system will be "proportional" when there are enough MLAs assigned to a PR system that the Green Party's 5-10% will finally get them an MLA or two?

I find her rep-by-region concerns about geographically giant ridings to contradict her desire for a mixed PR system and more MLAs in urban areas: to address all of this we'd need over 100 MLAs, and who wants that?

I believe in regional representation, and therefore I'm opposed to STV and all PR -- especially systems where undemocratic "party lists" dictate who will become our representatives (so whom do they represent? backroom boys?)

We should stick with first-past-the-post, but adopt the "giant ridings" in urban areas that the boundaries commission proposes. Some Vancouver constituencies used to have two MLAs, so why not have two large Vancouver constituencies like the boundaries commission proposes, with 5-6 MLAs apiece? But still have first-past-the-post, which voters understand and which is needed to satisfy regional representation in the rest of BC?

Urban voters can then select 1-6 candidates, with more freedom to split parties, vote for an independent, or vote Green as they did when Vancouver elected Andrea Reimer school trustee in 2002.

Andrea, however, finished 9th, which is surely why she would prefer one gigantic Vancouver provincial riding with 11 MLAs to two "giant" ones with 5-6 each. I actually have no problem with that (though Bill might, because he supports a Ward system), but let's keep it first-past-the-post.

Proportional representation puts too much power into the hands of political parties and does not address the need for regional representation in rural BC.

Antony Hodgson said...

Macadavy, Bill doesn't agree with you - he wants FPTP and is totally opposed to MMP as well as to STV - see Leave our voting system alone

Jeff - STV will use paper ballots that are just as secure as our current ones. Just like in the Vancouver city elections, scanners will probably be used to speed up the count, but the integrity of the election won't be threatened.

Budd, there's nothing complicated about STV - instead of winning a plurality of votes, you actually have to win roughly a riding's worth, about 20,000 votes. Since neighbours don't necessarily support the same candidate, winners have to draw their support from a broader physical region. That happens with any PR system. STV simply makes a different kind of tradeoff than MMP - all STV districts are relatively compact, whereas the list region in MMP systems are generally considerably larger (in Ontario, it's provincewide).

Bill, as for your question about how Sunshine Coast voters can expect accountable representation - they have enough votes to control the election of one candidate. Furthermore, they can swing the selection of a candidate from amongst the options put forward by a particular party. If one candidate (say from the NDP) ignores the Sunshine Coast and never visits, you can bet those voters will support another NDP candidate. All the MLAs are accountable because if they lose individual support, they won't be re-elected, even if their party continues to win the same number of seats.

Also, since a major function of constituency offices is to provide nonpartisan constituent services, I see no reason why the four MLAs representing the coast region shouldn't set up shared offices in multiple places - why should there only be one office?

The North Island riding is going to be bipolar anyway, with only 15,000 people up near Port Hardy and 60,000 near Campbell River. If you look at the EBC population map, you'll see the logic of grouping together the people who live in the coastal horseshoe - close to 90% of the population in this STV riding is within about 60 km of the centre - it's only 120 km from Campbell River to Parksville.

Antony Hodgson said...


I'm not quite clear why you're opposed to STV. There will be the same number of MLAs as with FPTP, there will be regional teams of MLAs just as you're proposing, and voters will be much more likely to vote in independents and Greens as you suggest. One of the advantages of STV, in my mind, is that by having regional districts throughout the province, there will almost always be both government and opposition MLAs in each district (virtually certain when there are 3 or more MLAs), so the government won't be able to punish a particular district for voting 'incorrectly' without also hurting their own candidate. I expect that the result will be more sensitive and balanced policies.

It sounds to me as though you're concerned about voters understanding the system. I think it's really easy, and have taught my 11 year old son how to do an STV count. Most people are simply unfamiliar with how STV works, but I find that I can usually get across the idea in 30 seconds or so. I have faith that BC voters are every bit as smart as the Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, Scottish, and Americans who all use STV.

Your idea about giving voters multiple 'X' votes in an urban riding actually tends to promote sweeps, rather than proportional results. Andrea's win was quite unusual. Most commonly, virtually all seats in a larger district will go to the party with a plurality of support.

Sally said...

Thank you for your response antony. I don't like STV, but what really mortifies me is Mixed/Party-List PR as supported by Andrea Reimer and other card-carriers in the Green Party and NDP especially. So if that's what she's aiming at, perhaps STV is better than KNOW-STV!

I feel the whole point of our system is regional representation, in urban areas just as much as rural areas. I wish people would vote for the candidate they feel best represents them--forget the party and party leader--and I couldn't care less about what local or provincial proportion the parties get. If more people just approached the system the way it was set up for, there'd be a lot less complaining about FPTP.

PR proposals, STV included, seem to be more concerned with the idea that our capital-P parties are proportionally represented than with the more important relationship of having an MLA who knows your neighbourhood and is representing YOU (rather than a closed ideology, or party platform, or a party leader and staff you didn't vote for).

I suppose that on the reasons we vote, we simply disagree. However, I have one more question about STV. Won't having monster ridings require A LOT more campaign money? (something I thought electoral reformers were trying to get away from)

Clearly the most successful candidates will be elected by building a profile right across their giant ridings. This means 2-5 times the amount of signs and mail-outs, 2-5 times the amount of advertising, major pressure to shell out for TV and radio advertising in order to cover such a wide area, extensive travel--in some ridings by ferry and air...

I expect you're going to say that could be one strategy, where another is to stay at home and hit the threshold by being extremely popular in only your local area, but isn't option one the surest? I see parties having even more control over our representatives by having to raise all this money for them, and the ability to provide
resources like bulk-produced signs. And especially now that MLA salaries are higher (making the job more desirable to those who make comparable wages), I see wealthy people having an even stronger advantage than they do currently, as they can dip into their own bank accounts to pay for campaigning in a riding 4-6 times larger than we have now.

Another question: how large (geographically) are the ridings in the areas you mention that have adopted STV?

Sally said...

Also, Antony, I should clarify. In my first post, I was referring only to urban ridings when I proposed regional "teams" of MLAs. If urban voters "want more choice" then they can have it. Vancouver is a single electoral district municipally, so why not have one ballot for MLAs as well? I prefer things as they stand, but considering most PR-promoting seems to come from urban-dwellers maybe this is the best compromise. As I mentioned, some Vancouver ridings used to have more than one MLA under our current system...

But I live in a rural constituency and get as much choice as I want--I have no desire to vote for someone to represent my community who lives a day's travel away. Nor do I wish my local representative to have to also worry about and regularly travel to other faraway communities.

Antony Hodgson said...

Hi Sally,

Those are interesting questions - I've thought about them a lot myself. Here are some thoughts:

1. I agree with what you said about regional interests being important. Provincial politics ARE about provincewide policies, so to me it makes sense to have people thinking about regional impacts. Of course, it's important to have people with local connections throughout the province so that they can assess impacts in their own communities, but generally speaking the policies passed by legislature are not narrowly focused geographically.

2. STV is not fundamentally a party-centric system - unlike MMP, it doesn't require party affiliation, but focuses on individual candidates. Party affiliations are helpful in that they indicate to the voters something about the candidate's general orientation, but they are not determinative in that voters do not cast party votes. Independents have a much easier time getting elected under STV (Ireland typically elects 5-10% independents). I favour this focus on individual candidates, so I don't think we disagree on the reasons why we vote.

3. I don't think that running under STV will necessarily cost much more than under FPTP. In other jurisdictions, candidates from the same party issue joint literature - that is, pamphlets listing all the candidates from a given party. Newspapers, radios and TVs are not limited in coverage to provincial ridings, so FPTP candidates typically have to buy airtime or adspace that covers ridings other than their own (eg, an ad in the Vancouver Sun will be seen provincewide; even the Vancouver Courier, which has westside and eastside editions, covers 5 or 6 ridings with each edition), so there are no increases in cost under STV - in fact, by pooling their resources, they can increase the visibility of their candidates quite substantially. It's true that an individual candidate will be less able to knock on all the doors in an expanded riding, but, assuming the same density of party volunteers, each party will still be able to knock on just as many doors - the volunteers simply have to seek support for their party's candidates. If a voter expresses a preference for one candidate on the list and a volunteer prefers another candidate, they can thank the voter for supporting the party and ask if the voter would consider giving their second preference to the volunteer's preferred candidate. In San Francisco, which adopted Instant Runoff Voting some years back (a single member version of STV), they've found a remarkable increase in civility between candidates, even those of different parties (if as a candidate you get too negative about another candidate, you won't attract a second preference vote from that candidate's supporters, but if you acknowledge their strengths and any similarities, you might get that second preference). Independents will have to be smarter about how they seek their support - they will more likely have to target their intended constituency by meeting with certain kinds of groups (eg, environmentalists) rather than going door to door throughout the expanded region. Ireland shows that it's certainly possible for independents to be successful with this kind of strategy.

4. The riding size varies from fairly small in Ireland (they're one tenth the size of BC with a comparable population) to quite large in Australia; I don't have the exact figures. However, check out the map I mentioned in my first post above - you'll see that a substantial fraction of the population in BC lives in the urban centres of Victoria and Vancouver, along the Okanagan valley, and along the highway up to Prince George and out to Prince Rupert - even though there are large tracts of land elsewhere, the population they support is very small. This means that in a practical sense, the majority of people, even in otherwise large ridings, are actually fairly close to one another. I'm not discounting the difficulties people face who are in more remote towns and villages, but they will have similar difficulties under any electoral system.

5. I appreciate what you said about allowing urban ridings to have a choice if they want it. I'm actually in favour of a second ballot question - "If your proposed STV district votes more than 50% in favour of adopting STV, would you favour adopting STV for your district regardless of what other districts in the province choose?" If you can help me persuade the provincial government to do this, please write to your MLA. I also understand that you might value the most local representation possible more than philosophical agreement with your MLA, but most of the rural representatives on the Citizens' Assembly felt that it was more important to them to have the option to decide for themselves whether they voted on the basis of philosophical agreement (ie, party) or geographic proximity; many felt they'd rather have an MLA with whom they felt considerable affinity, even if that MLA had to cover a larger geographic range (and remember that in the two-seat ridings, these MLAs still cover less territory than federal MPs, so it's certainly not an impossible task).

Thanks again for your questions - this is an interesting discussion.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks to all for their interesting comments and debate.

I would like to clarify the role of KNOW STV and its members.

KNOW STV is opposed to the Single Transferable Vote, period. KNOW STV is not in favour of First Past The Post, Mixed Member Proportional or any other electoral system. That is the basis of unity which has brought together such a wide assortment of supporters from very different political backgrounds.

See for a list of our members from the 2005 referendum.

As to Sally's question about Andrea Reimer's quotes in the news release - KNOW STV believes it is important, as our name says, to know as much as possible about STV before the second referendum.

As such, it is entirely appropriate to discuss proportionality issues because many voters are looking for that and should carefully consider what STV does and does not do. It is a vote determining question for many and Andrea addresses that issue.

However, KNOW STV is not a proponent of MMP or any other PR system or of FPTP.

As to myself, as Antony said, I oppose STV and also MMP as my personal position but that is not the KNOW STV position. As before, we have a wide range of views but all agree on one thing - STV would be a complicated, confusing, unrepresentative and unaccountable electoral system for BC.

But I appreciate supporters of STV giving their views and they are welcome to do so here.

Antony Hodgson said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your comments as well. However, I think it's a little disingenuous to say that KnowSTV is simply opposed to STV because there will be consequences if your opposition prevails, and the primary consequence will be the continuation of FPTP, so I think those members of KnowSTV, like yourself, who actually support this outcome should make a spirited case in defence of FPTP, rather than simply attacking STV. Certainly, those of who advocate STV are primarily contrasting the strengths of STV with the weaknesses of FPTP; we are not simply attacking FPTP (easy as that is to do:)), but are making a positive case for the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation.

Those members of KnowSTV who, like Andrea, prefer another electoral system should feel obligated to explain to BC voters how voting 'No' to STV this time will lead to improved odds for BC changing to their preferred system in the future. I would expect that if the referendum does not achieve enough support, politicians will be all too happy to wash their hands of the issue once and for all and that they'd take no action on electoral reform for another generation. Given the likelihood of that response, how do KnowSTV supporters who favour reform imagine it happening? "Vote no to reform so that government will understand how much we want it!" This makes no sense to me.

Actually, if this IS the message you want to send, why don't you encourage 'another reform' supporters to indicate their support for this by marking their ballot with a '2' in the STV box? This won't be counted as support for STV, but could be logged by elections officials and will provide some measure of how much support there is for a different kind of electoral reform, which could be used to trigger further reform efforts later. To my mind, though, the best way to achieve a different reform is to pass STV and then use your increased influence with your MLAs to push for further improvements.

In summary, people opposed to STV either prefer FPTP or they don't. I suspect that the majority of KnowSTV members, like you and Andrea, prefer FPTP to STV. In that case, argue the issues directly. On proportionality, for example, there is no doubt that STV is far more proportional than FPTP. Using Gallagher's Disproportionality Index, for example, Northern Ireland dropped from about 15% to about 4% when they adopted STV (Canada's outcomes on this scale have ranged over the past 30 years from ~9-21% and the UK from 12-18%). The two countries using STV to elect their legislatures are Malta (0.3-3%) and Ireland (2-7%). Malta and Ireland are both in the top 10 most proportional countries in the world, whereas none of the FPTP countries (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand pre-MMP, etc) are. These values for STV are comparable to all the various list PR and MMP countries often held up as examples of proportionality - Finland (2-5%), Germany (0.5-5%), New Zealand (1-3.4%, down from 9-18% under FPTP), so there's no historical evidence for arguing, as Andrea does, that "STV is nowhere near as proportional as other electoral systems being considered in places like Ontario or already used elsewhere in the world.” On a provincewide scale, STV will likely be just as proportional as the MMP system Ontario is considering. I actually find it ironic that Andrea criticizes STV for requiring MLAs to serve large geographic areas when she advocates a system (MMP) in which the list MLAs would have to serve regions which would be much larger than those envisioned under STV.

Anyway, thanks Bill for giving me the space to respond.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks Antony but you have really misrepresented Andrea's position, which is totally pro-Mixed Member Proportional, not FPTP! In fact I've previously debated against Andrea on this issue but when it comes to opposing STV we're on the same side!

Simply put, I think in fact you are the one being disingenuous by suggesting that if STV is adopted there is any possibility of change to a different system later.

Many people in Ireland have been trying to get rid of STV for decades and there have been two referendums since it was adopted in the 1920s, if I remember rightly.

The short answer for those who want a proportional representation electoral system and not STV, is to defeat STV and then argue for change. While that is not my personal position, the logic of it is clear.

If STV is adopted in BC, the Citizens Assembly was quite adamant that it should be allowed to continue for at least 3 elections - 12 years under the current fixed election date legislation.

So, if you want MMP, be prepared to wait until at least 2025 for the first chance to change systems - that's a very, very long time.

And sorry Antony but KNOW STV is not about to endorse FPTP or any other system, as I have previously explained on this post. We simply agree despite a wide variety of opinions on everything else that STV would be a disaster.

You disagree and I welcome the debate but a facts a fact.

Antony Hodgson said...

Bill, I don't think I'm misrepresenting Andrea at all. Of course she's in favour of MMP above all else, but she's told me face to face that she would prefer FPTP to STV. That is, while she may think that the best route to getting MMP is by rejecting STV, given a straight choice between FPTP and STV, she still favours FPTP. Given that, I feel justified in asking her and you for arguments in favour of FPTP since that's the actual choice before us. I understand that KnowSTV won't endorse FPTP, but I think you could and should say why a substantial proportion of your members thinks FPTP is better.

Nonetheless, I accept that some of your supporters, not including you of course, think that MMP would be even better than either STV or FPTP. The vast majority of those likely believe that both MMP and STV are better than FPTP (this was the opinion of well over 90% of those in the CA). These people recognize that FPTP needs to go, so should be able to argue why a 'No' vote won't lead to the entrenchment of the very system they oppose (ie, FPTP).

Your point about the CA recommending a review after three uses is a reasonable one, but that wasn't a mandate - it was simply a recommendation that we give STV a fair chance, so I don't think the door is shut on an earlier review and it might be more possible to make modifications to STV (such as adding a small provincewide list component) than to push for a wholesale switch to an MMP system, especially if there is broad consensus from CA alums, political parties and electoral reform advocates that such changes are reasonable.

MMP advocates should also not underestimate the time needed to bring about an alternative reform. In the event of a 'No' vote, they will first have to convince the new government of the need to continue with electoral reform in a context in which reform was just rejected. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find MLAs interpreting such a result as a lack of public appetite for reform, and I'd expect there to be little support unless one party saw it as a way to generate some support at the time of the 2013 election the way the Liberals did in 2001.

Next, supporters would have to generate some substantial consensus about how to proceed. The CA process is now established as the most legitimate way of seeking public input, so MMP advocates would have to either propose convening a new CA or convince the legislature to appoint a commission or legislative group. These latter options would likely be subject to considerable criticism regarding legitimacy.

There's also the question of whether any resulting reform proposal would have to be put to referendum (and what the threshold would be). Any move to establish a 50% threshold for an MMP proposal would be widely criticized as a partisan move since STV has been held to a 60% standard (unjustifiably so, in my opinion).

My own estimate of an optimistic timeline for an MMP reform effort (should STV not win in 2009) would be something like:

2009: begin efforts to drum up public support for electoral reform (competing with demands to implement STV on the strength of yet another 57-59% endorsement).

2011: organized petition drive (a la Adrienne Carr's one a decade ago)

2013: becomes election issue; one party promises to deal with it and succeeds in winning election

2014: CA process initiated

2016: CA recommends STV again. Oops! I mean they recommend MMP this time.

2017: referendum produces 58% in favour of MMP. Government declines to implement reform. Or: okay, let's grant that the referendum produces 61% in favour of reform.

2021: first election under MMP

To my mind, under the most optimistic of circumstances, MMP won't be implemented until 2021. This is not much shy of the 2025 date you mentioned for a change following an expected review of STV in 2021. To accelerate a possible implementation of MMP by 4 years will require a very significant investment of effort on the part of MMP supporters with huge uncertainties in the outcome and possible opposition from electoral reform supporters angry with them for scuttling the real reform opportunity we have before us.

In contrast, if MMP supporters vote Yes now, they will have succeeded in achieving proportional representation in the short term and will have a near-guarantee of an opportunity to remake their case in 2021 with no significant political investment required. The choice seems pretty obvious to me - support STV now and push for adjustments later.

Two last points/questions:

1. What do you mean by 'a fact's a fact'?

2. Do you concede that STV is more proportional than FPTP? If not, what's your response to my argument in my last post?

Antony Hodgson said...

Also, a note about the Irish referendums (from the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network):

"The electoral system is entrenched in the constitution and consequently cannot be changed without a referendum. On two occasions (1959 and 1968) the largest party, Fianna Fáil, instigated a referendum to replace STV by the British FPTP system, using the argument each time that any kind of PR was likely to create a problem of unstable coalition government. The proposed change was rejected by the voters on each occasion, by margins of 52 per cent to 48 per cent in 1959, and 61 per cent to 39 per cent in 1968.

On the basis of the criterion of stable government, anyone evaluating the record of STV in the Republic of Ireland would not, in fact, see its performance as a problem. Since the mid-1940s, governments (both coalition and single-party) have lasted three, four or five years, the only exception being a short-lived period of instability in the early 1980s. The voters, through their ranking of candidates of different parties, are able to indicate their wishes regarding potential coalition partners for their preferred party."

So in fact the 'people' you referred to who wanted to get rid of STV were actually the members of the party that wanted unearned majority power - the real people (ie, the citizens) rightly sent them packing.

Dan Grice said...


Know STV, a coalition of backroom insiders, opinionists, and a token Green, condemns the new BC-EBC report. "This report is an affront to democracy, in the past election we were able to confuse voters by claiming that the North would be lumped into extraordinarily huge constituencies and that voters would have no idea what they were voting for," thought Tieleman, the only member of the Know-STV campaign to actually do any work in the past election. "Now, we're going to have to change our arguments to claim that the ridings are too small, otherwise voters may actually support the changes."

The Know-STV group was originally formed to support the first past the post system, realizing that the current polarized system provides jobs for hundreds of political columnists across the province.

"If individual MLAs actually responded to the needs of their voters, we would have to write positive articles, and everyone knows that positive articles don't sell newspapers," a fictional publisher may have said.

However, upon realizing that very few people actually like the current system, Know-STV successfully adopted a mixed message portfolio, bringing together both people who wanted to keep the two party system in the province, as well as those who wanted a truly proportionate system such as used in Israel and Germany.

"The only bad thing we could say about STV was that it is used on the small island of Malta, so we figured if we could confuse some voters and convince other voters that there are better electoral systems then we may be able to slow the reform movement down. We knew that a majority of voters would support the change, but thanks to the provincial government changing the referendum law, we only had to convince 42% of voters to oppose it."
Know STV plans on opposing the next referendum and will be coming up with a new plan to confuse voters and frustrate electoral reform advocates.

Bill Tieleman said...

I appreciate the sense of humour of Green Party federal candidate in Vancouver Quadra - Dan Grice - in his posting just above but want to make sure any readers know it is his rather unbelievable view of KNOW STV and nothing from the organization whatsoever!

Dan said...

Look forward to seeing you at debates in the future!

Whether I agree with you or not, at least you are always amiable.

Antony Hodgson said...

Bill, does your silence in the face of my arguments mean that you concede:

1. That STV is clearly more proportional than FPTP, and

2. That a post-No-vote route to MMP will be extended, involved and uncertain?

Since your group is not willing to actually support FPTP but simply to oppose STV, maybe we should start a parallel "No to FPTP" committee and invite those who oppose FPTP to join. We wouldn't advocate any particular system - just say that voters should turn down FPTP - so I'm sure that many of your members could in all good conscience join this group as well (Andrea certainly isn't a fan of FPTP). Of course, if turning down FPTP meant that STV was accepted, well, c'est la vie.

Chris said...

BCSTV isn't a perfect system, but its better than FPTP. Bill, if you're going to argue against it, you need a better argument than: ridings will be too big (as you presented in today's 24). The size of ridings is a straw man argument.

Most of the existing ridings in Northern and Central BC are the size of Ireland, but that doesn't stop our current MPs from representing their constituents. Under BCSTV there will still be just as many MLAs per person and per sq/km of BC.

Last I checked we had a representative democracy where MLAs represented people, not trees.

Anonymous said...

I am an Australian, and having read your comments would like clear up a few points.
1. No elections in Australia are conducted using FPTP ;
2. The Federal House of Reps is elected using IRV, the Senate a form of STV( the largest "riding" is WA);
3. Both Tasmania and the ACT use the Hare-Clarke STV variant, in Tasmania's Lower House and the ACT is uni-cameral.

The riding size is definitely a straw man argument, and unless you restrict ridings to 2 candidates almost anything is better than FPTP!!

Antony Hodgson said...

Hey anonymous,

Thanks for your comments. I do know that Oz doesn't use FPTP, but IRV is just as disproportional so I glossed over the distinction to make my point about STV vs single member elections - sorry about that.

Actually, I think even two-member STV would be better than FPTP - in most places, it would ensure that both government and opposition reps get elected, though obviously it's not nearly as proportional as a design with bigger districts.

I revisited Bill's argument about the Northeast and discovered that 90% of the voters in that 'huge' riding actually live along a stretch of Highway 97 that's less than 100 km long. All of a sudden, that riding doesn't look so big any more (does it, Bill?). There's just a lot of land up there empty of people. The 6000 people around Fort Nelson are going to be separated from the population centre of their riding under any system, so as you point out, the size objection is really a non-argument.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that Mr. Tieleman isn't willing to be more up-front about why he opposes STV. As anyone who has some awareness of BC politics and punditry knows, Tieleman's opposition has nothing whatsoever to do with concerns about Riding sizes or worries that voters will be "confused" by STV. It has everything to do with the fact that Tieleman is an old-line NDP party insider and "communications advisor", a.k.a. spinmeister. The NDP opposes STV for the simple reason that it moves (unearned) majorities out of reach for that party (as well as out of reach for the BC Liberals, most of the time).

Ironically, the NDP's opposition to a more proportionally representative electoral system is laughably stupid of them, because BC's business establishment has learned from the mistakes which allowed the NDP to win election in the 1990s. Among the right-wing party's remedies, carefully instituted to make sure an NDPer will never again sully the Premier's office: (1) Avoid running obvious fools like Billy Vander Zalm or what's-her-name the trailer-park lady (Vander Zalm's successor at the helm of the Socreds) as your business-party candidate for Premier. Find more credible people. (2) Take full control of the mainstream media, and make sure press coverage of provincial politics consistently favours the agenda and personalities of the business party and consistently disparages and/or ignores the lefties and greenies. As Mr. Tieleman knows, given his professional role, "newspapers" are in fact public opinion management agencies, nothing more, nothing less. The papers and main radio and TV outlets are now so firmly in the hands of the pro-business-party forces that even a drunk-driving Premier or evidence of serious corruption like the goings-on around the sale of Crown railroads barely causes a ripple in the polls (Tieleman's persistent campaign of innuendo about the latter in the Georgia Straight -- his attempts to link anyone and everyone associated with the provincial and federal Liberals to the antics of the railroad scammers -- hasn't had any discernable effect on the polls). Imagine if the drunk-driving Premier had been an NDP Premier, or the railroads had been sold by an NDP government, or the massive cost overruns of the 2010 Olympics had been incurred by NDP politicians! -- Pacific Press wouldn't give us a single day off from the campaign of hysterical scandal-mongering, charges of NDP incompetence and corruption, etc. that would certainly have ensued. (3) When a particular policy area grabs the public's interest and becomes faddishly popular, co-opt it, and then manage the issue so that the business 'community' still comes out ahead -- for example, pretend to be concerned about climate change whilst massively expanding oil, gas and coal project developments in BC, or weaken Native alliances with wilderness-conservation greenies by offering Native bands some minor logging concessions.

The reality is that the BC Liberals/Pacific Press/business establishment nexus has things so handily under control that the NDP has almost no chance at all of getting elected to government ever again in BC.

The main reason is that we don't really have a free mainstream press (sorry, Bill, the Tyee isn't going to reach the attention of swing voters, and the Georgia Straight doesn't determine provincial elections). But that's not the only reason. Equally significant is the fact that the NDP and Greens are increasingly splitting the "progressive" vote, which plays directly into the hands of the BC Liberals (the centre-right is united).

The heavily ironic upshot of all this, given Tieleman's KNOW-STV role, is that the only realistic hope the NDP has of regaining government is if there's a change in the electoral system, and the progressive vote can be recombined in the form of an NDP-Green coalition government. That's the ONLY way Tieleman and his associates can hope to once again get their hands on government tax lolly, like in the halcyon days of the 1990s, so they can pay themselves generous "communications advisory service fees" and divvy up assorted patronage spoils. An NDP-Green coalition government is realistically achievable, given either MMP or STV. Another NDP government under FPTP is not. It mystifies me that Tieleman and other NDP hacks are, to be grossly impolitic in my choice of words, apparently too stupid to see this. If Tieleman were smarter, he'd be working round-the-clock in support of electoral reform, not opposing it.

Or maybe he is in fact smarter than we realize -- maybe he's a double agent, who is actually working for Premier Campbell and company. That would be corrupt, but at least it wouldn't make his opposition to electoral reform seem so inexplicably stupid.

Antony Hodgson said...

Well, Bill, anonymous has certainly thrown down the gauntlet. In order of priority, what are your own personal reasons for opposing STV? Is anonymous on the money or not?

Also, what do you think about the argument that the NDP will do well under STV because it will allow them to recapture votes currently 'wasted' (in the opinion of the NDP) on the Greens?

Anonymous said...

This is great stuff, folks. No wonder Bill went on holidays.