Tuesday August 28, 2007
The stupidity of single transfer
By BILL TIELEMAN
The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.
Imagine an electoral voting system so complicated, so disliked and so obscure that only two countries in the world - both tiny islands - use it for their national elections.
Imagine British Columbia following in the footsteps of Malta and Ireland.
And imagine a system where all of B.C. would have just 20 giant electoral districts instead of the current 79, with up to six members of the Legislative Assembly per riding.
Then imagine that B.C. voters might seriously adopt it for our own elections.
Stupid? You bet, but B.C. will decide on whether to adopt the single transferable vote or STV system in a May 12, 2009 referendum run concurrent with the next provincial election.
B.C. voters didn't think enough of STV in the 2005 referendum to give the required 60 per cent approval to implement this bad idea, suggested by the Citizens Assembly. Unfortunately, it came close enough that Premier Gordon Campbell is holding a second referendum.
But fortunately, the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission has provided what was missing in the last referendum - an STV riding map so every voter can see exactly what STV would look like.
It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it should be enough evidence for anyone who cares about how we vote to flatly reject it.
For example, Ireland is a small place with a population of four million people. Yet Ireland under STV has 166 elected representatives spread over 70,000 square kilometres.
B.C. has 4.3 million people but is a large province of 948,000 square kilometres and under STV, B.C. would have 81 MLAs.
That means on average an Irish politician represents an area of 422 square kilometres while under STV on average a B.C. politician would represent an area of 11,703 square kilometres.
Now, of course, those are only averages and in Vancouver and other urban centres riding sizes under STV would be much smaller.
But that also means under STV northern and interior ridings would be positively enormous.
Take the proposed B.C. STV riding of Northeast. It would have two MLAs and a size of - wait for it - 274,752 square kilometres! That means just one riding with two MLAs is nearly four times bigger than all of Ireland with its 166 members!
And the new riding map shows several other gigantic ridings that are simply unmanageable for MLAs.
Of course, STV advocates dare not suggest doubling our legislature to 166 members but it's obvious that STV just doesn't work for large geographic areas.
There's much more wrong with STV and I will write about it in the months ahead of the referendum.
Meanwhile, I am on vacation - back on Tuesday, Sept. 18.