Tuesday, October 09, 2007

BC Minister of State for Mining Kevin Krueger comes out against Single Transferable Vote - first BC cabinet minister to take public stand against STV

BC's Minister of State for Mining Kevin Krueger has become the first sitting BC Liberal cabinet minister to take a stand opposing the Single Transferable Vote - or STV - that will be the subject of a province-wide referendum in conjunction with the May 2009 provincial election.

The BC Citizens Assembly recommended the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote in the 2005 provincial election to replace the current First Past The Post system but it failed to meet the double majority threshold of 60% of all BC voters in favour and also over 50% of the votes in 60% of province's 79 electoral districts, or 48 constituencies. The STV option got 57.5% in favour and was therefore defeated.

Krueger is also MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, one of two ridings were STV failed to obtain over 50% of the vote in favour.

Writing in the North Kamloops Star/Journal on October 8, Krueger says that the Single Transferable Vote would be a disaster for rural communities. And he notes that he shares opposition to STV with former Social Credit Attorney-General Bud Smith, a former Kamloops MLA and one of the founders of KNOW STV along with myself.

"Like Bud Smith, I utterly reject the “Single Transferable Vote” proposal for electoral reform in B.C. It would inevitably cause a loss of personal representation for people who live in small communities or rural areas," Krueger writes.

"Citizens of Blue River, Birch Island, Clearwater, Little Fort, Barriere, Chu Chua, Whispering Pines, McLure, Westwold, Pritchard, Chase, Little Shuswap, Adams Lake and points between would be lumped in with people from Williams Lake to Merritt under the proposed boundary changes."

"A cluster of five MLA’s, probably all urban, would be elected for this huge area. None would be particularly assigned to any of these communities."

"Provincial decisions would inevitably become dominated by city MLA’s."

"Many city people do not realize that Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna are forest-dependent, mining-dependent, farming and ranching-dependent and energy-producer-dependent cities, but they are. The resource wealth that pays for their healthcare, education, justice and social service systems is extracted and provided by rural people," says Krueger.



27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill
How can it be that you and Kevin Krueger agree on this issue. I didn't know kevin new any big words and could form a decent opinion. But let's face it, a lot of folks voted for the STV last time because they were fed up about a government that had no opposition. This time around hopefully the money will be spent to educate the folks who might actually be looking for a different system that isn't all that hard to understand. My Gosh a family friend was one of those folks who travelled back and forth to vancouver to review different systems and to vote on what they figured was the best. I'm sure even after all the inforamtion they got, many still would have voted for the Status Quo dl

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks DL - I appreciate Kevin's comments on STV even though we don't agree on much else. I helped form KNOW STV with former Social Credit Attorney-General Bud Smith and many other folks with very different politics than mine generally but we all agreed STV was a disaster.

Heck, even Bill Bennett and Dave Barrett agreed that STV was no good!

Thank goodness STV didn't pass and I hope it will go down to defeat once again. Kevin's statement on STV is most welcome and I hope other MLAs on both sides come forward with equally strong positions against STV.

Budd Campbell said...

I too am opposed to STV because I find it too complicated to undertstand. Maybe that's my fault, but I don't think so.

However, I have to wonder to which side Kevin Krueger's support represents genuine help?

And here's a question for Bill Tieleman. If you were living in Ontario, would you support or oppose their referendum on MMP which is being held today?

Anonymous said...

STV was proposed specifically to keep the NDP out of government.

My prediction is that it would skew the outcome in favour of the Greens, Libertarians, Democratic Reform and other small parties at the expense of the NDP

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for the question Budd. I have long been opposed to Proportional Representation and have said so in column and in a debate with Mixed Member Proportional supporter Andrea Reimer on the Tyee a few years back.

So, I would vote no to MMP if I were in Ontario and continue to support First Past The Post, our current system.

I do want to note two further things, however. First, as a founding member of KNOW STV it should be made clear that my personal position on MMP and Pro-Rep is not a position of that group. KNOW STV was formed solely to oppose the Single Transferable Vote and some of our members favour MMP or other Pro-Rep systems.

Second, in any vote where the two choice was between MMP and STV only, I would unhesitatingly vote for MMP because it is a much simpler and fairer system than STV.

Fortunately for me, the next vote in BC will be between First Past The Post and STV - making it an easy choice for both myself and MMP supporters - to vote No to STV.

Budd Campbell said...

So Bill, the present system, FPTP, is the very best of all available systems for British Columbia in your view. Is that a provincial level preference only, or would you rule out proportional representation at the national level as well?

I wonder how the general public reacts to experienced career politicians adn organizers in BC who say that the system we have is, for all practical intents and purposes, perfection on earth, and that anyone who has problems with it is deluded and immature? In particular, I wonder what kind of picture this presents to people who have, for the most part, stopped voting, and who are cynical about politics?

Personally I think some kind of proportional representation at the national level is vital, given the dangerous tendency of the present system to exaggerate and reinforce regional cleavages and sectional jealousies. It would be hard to implement given the varying sizes of the provinces, but something could be done.

At the provincial level, I think we could at least consider a system where voters go the polls in the same 36 ridings we use federally and elect an MLA based on FPTP. Then an additional 50 seats could be allocated in proportion to the popular vote each party got in the traditional 36 FPTP contests. That would not be MMP, it would involve province wide lists ranked by the parties, or perhaps by the voters in primaries, but it would be simple and yet lead to greater accuracy in reflecting the public's party preferences.

It would get parties around the problem of sometimes having their leader defeated in his/her home riding. It would provide major parties with a number of super-safe proportional seats for highly talented Cabinet-level candidates, and would guarantee all parites with more than 1% of the vote at least one MLA.

Yet the awarding of 36 seats by the existing method would also tend to lead to majority governments provided the leading party had roughly 45% of more of the popular vote. What's not to like?

My beef with the STV crowd, besides the ridiculous complexity of the calculations, has to do with their denial of Aboriginal and immigrant representational issues. This became apparent to me at a hearing almost a year ago with the BC EBC.

When I mentioned using the variability in riding populations to not only recognize difficult geography, but also difficult to represent constituents, such as Aboriginals and new Canadians where language, poverty and social exclusion make an MLA's job relatively more difficult, the EBC Commissioner present was happy to talk about it for a minute or two. He pointed out that Alberta's redistricting statute explicitly requires that these populations be taken into account in delineating riding boundaries.

But while the EBC Commissioner warmed to this subject, the STV man in the corner, who had been a member of the Citizen's Assembly, was visibly displeased. This kind of thing had absolutely no place in his kind of B.C., and it showed.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit confused about all these comments of "stupid - disaster - etc. etc" in reference to the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly. Perhaps if you had volunteered your time for one year, as all of them did, and heard the presentations of the "ordinary" citizens of this Province, you may not be so quick to condem them. If you take a look at the people most vocal against STV, you will find "political" connections. In fact, one former MLA for a Kamloops riding, told the people of that area there were not smart enough to put a mark beside, one, two or three, but could only cope with an X beside one name. He inferred our B.C. citizens are dumber then the Irish and the Maltese. And it was both ridings in the Kamloops area that failed to meet the unreasonable 60% required. I say this was unreasonable because Canada could have separated on a 50 plus 1 vote. Was the 60% designed to make the Assemblies recommendation, no matter what it was, fail? Joey

The Doctor said...

I really cannot see why he's complaining about the size of the electorate or "lack of personal representation".
Australia's biggest STV electorate is Western Australia, which has 12 members, and there is the single member electorate of Kalgoorlie which is at least double the area of BC. The size complaint seems like the English complaining about having to travel 50km down the road!
As for the personal representation complaint - multi-member electorates allow what amounts to forum shopping, if your government member cannot do anything for you then you can talk an opposition member to see whether they can kick up a suitable fuss.

G West said...

Quick question Bill.

If the option on offer was simply a single vote/voter in every constituency (as it is now in FPP) and proportionality was only used after the votes had been counted to correct discrepancies between the riding count and the popular vote - no second ballot (as in the Ontario deal) with party preference in other words - would you still have a problem with proportional representation?
[Assuming some minimum popular vote threshold of 2 - 5% for a party seat].

I'm trying to get my head around why you'd want to continue with a system, which freezes so many British Columbians out of having a choice about their government unless they happen to be lucky enough to vote for the winning team.

I just don't see how a better reflection of the electorate's wishes in the Legislature can be bad...although I do agree that STV is fatally flawed for this province with its demographic and geographic characteristics.

Budd Campbell said...

I suspect that all the anti-PR people in Canada, including Bill Tieleman, are celebrating the 63% rejection that Ontario voters gave to PR in a referendum yesterday.

However, Bill and others should remember that these are the same Ontario voters who gave the NDP a mere 10 seats and just 17% of the vote, up a mere 2 points from 2003. Partly that has to do with the ongoing hostility of the Hargrove's CAW towards the Ontario NDP and Howard Hampton, but it's also part and parcel of a Central Canadian electoral climate that has always accepted the idea that there is a need for clever cynicism in politics. It's that kind of electorate that defeats electoral reform proposals by whopping margins.

Frank said...

Clearly this has nothing to do with whether STV or MMP are bad systems. Bill is simply against shutting down a system that ignores most voters.

For those of us that live in a riding that has voted overwhelmingly for one party since WW2 there is simply no reason currently to bother voting. And half the population has come to the same conclusion. The current system only works for those that think all politics in BC should revolve around the tiny number of swing voters between the Liberals and NDP.

Ian King said...

I'm glad, Bill, that you've made clear that FPTP is your choice here and elsewhere. We often hear pro-electoral reform noises from New Democrats in Ontario and at the federal level -- and given how poorly the NDP fares under FPTP there, I don't blame them! It's not so much so in BC where the NDP vote is quite efficient under FPTP. That said, FPTP's biggest fans have been established people from established parties. I'm sure they appreciate FPTP producing safe seats and safe majorities, but it's not to my taste.

Andrea Reimer is, as ever, free to support all electoral reform short of actual reform. MMP isn't on the table -- your job, Bill, is to convince its supporters that the good is the enemy of the (imagined) perfect.

Getting back to safe seats, I have to sympathise with Frank. I've lived in East Vancouver (specifically. the Hastings and Mount Pleasant ridings) for most of the last 10 years. Not much tension or reason to vote if you're not a committed partisan; it sucks for most voters when the MLA is decided at the nomination meeting. Under STV, I can pick the solid candidates and not the motley ones -- and my free-enterprising neighbour will have a BC Liberal MLA to go to if he's snubbed by the New Democrats. That's why STV works for me.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks as always to the many posters on this item - I do appreciate the debate.

To G West's question: I don't support proportional representation, period. The current system does in fact, despite all comments counterwise, make every vote count. Voters can vote for parties that don't appeal to most voters and therefore can't be elected or to parties that have a chance of winning the riding.

The idea that "every vote counts" only with proportional representation is silly. Elections are not children's birthday parties where every guest gets a prize in a contest - they are about deciding who will govern.

I don't want a government that is held hostage to some small party that manages to hold the balance of power because 3 or 5% of all voters picked them for their far out policies.

Elections are about difficult choices - for example, potential Green voters have to consider whether voting in an NDP member with strong environmental credentials is better than voting Green and watching a coal-powered Liberal MLA win as a result of the vote split and work for offshore oil exploration is a good decision.

Sorry, but you can rail about proportional representation all you want - and more power to you if you can convince enough voters to implement it - but I won't be one of them.

And, as Budd predicted, yes I am very pleased with the Ontario referendum - voters there made a wise choice. I only wish the federal and BC NDP had the same good sense but I remain ever optimistic.

Frank, the mighty Conservative Party in 1993 was reduced from a massive majority to just 2 seats when it failed voters. Change can happen under First Past The Post quite easily. The BC NDP can testify to that too after 2001.

Ian, I appreciate your reasoned comment. But pretending that STV supporters are all political virgins beggars the imagination.

With Conservative hacks like Bruce Hallsor, former federal candidate, leading Fair Voting BC - the STV cheerleaders, and former Socred cabinet ministers like Rafe Mair supporting STV, it's hardly credible to say it's just established people from established parties who all back FPTP.

Thanks again and no doubt you will be back for more! Good stuff!

Budd Campbell said...

As an NDPer I think Bill Tieleman's views on FPTP versus proportional representation harkens back to an earlier time in CCF/NDP history.

It was perhaps most succinctly expressed by Dave Barrett in the years immediately leading up to his 1972 upset victory. He would often tell Party audiences that he totally supported what he called the "British Parliamentary system". He meant FPTP, but chose to express it in Commonwealth sounding lingo that resonated sweetly for the NDP's substantial Anglo immigrant support base, ex-Labour Party supporters in a pre-Tony Blair British Columbia. He would elaborate by stating that this system offered the people "direct access to power".

On the evening of August 30th, 1972, the meaning of the phrase direct access to power became quite apparent, and more so to the party's enemies that its supporters as it won 38 seats on a house of 55 with just 39% of the vote. Over the next three years Barrett's opponents and a hostile media turned those figures into a propaganda drumbeat, telling everyone who wasn't a committed NDPer that Barrett had "snuck" into office, and that his government was fundamentally illegitimate. It worked like a charm, and by the time of the 1975 election, 49% of BC voters were prepared to support Bill Bennett, a man who had no apparent qualifications for the Premiership beyond the fact that his father had previously occupied the chair. That same Bill Bennett, along with Dave Barrett, is now one of Tieleman's anti-STV endorsers!

And Bill Tieleman should hardly need reminding that the 1996 election, in which he and Glen Clark won with 39% of the vote against Gordon Campbell's 41 or 42 percent, touched off a similar process of voter suspicion hardening into anger and rejection, that ultimately led to the wall-to-wall wipeout of 2001.

The notion that the NDP needs a trick system in order to succeed in the face of opposition from the business community and the corporate controlled mass media is still with us. It can be seen not only in Tieleman's rejection of any and all PR systems, but in Carol James and Bruce Ralston's pathetic and objectionable arguments against expanding the House to 87 members on the grounds that, ... wait for it, .... the people in the areas most likely to gain additional seats, based on Census population data, cannot be trusted not to vote Liberal!!! IOWs, redistricting must be done in such as way as to not confer on the rival party an advantage to which they may in fact be entitled based on population!

This is the kind of truly desperate and ultimately embarrassing kind of thinking people get into when their political partisanship becomes too overbearing, too inward looking, and drives them towards arguing that the electoral system, or features within that system, must be designed to serve the needs of their party rather than the needs of the general public. These partisans see no problem with arguing such a degrading proposition however, because as far as they are concerned there is no such thing as the general public, just our supporters and their supporters. It’s a super-hardened view of the world reminiscent of the attitudes of a career jail guard or a “hardball” political consultant.

Maybe Bill Tielmen’s reading assignment for today should be Vaughn Palmer’s column on the late Professor Terry Morley.

Frank said...

I agree with you completely Budd. Political partisanship should be checked at the door when deciding what is fair electoral reform.

And its certainly not because I'm not partisan.

But when it comes to setting electoral boundaries or electoral reform, partisanship is equivalent to corruption.

And there's no damn way even my NDP should be running this province with a majority of seats with only 38% of the vote.

First past the post produces an outcome where none of us with differing political views have to compromise and get along.

Bill, with all due respect I will live to see Alberta go NDP before I see the Fraser Valley elect one.

G West said...

Well Bill, I don't have time to address your argument in detail just now - just wanted you to know I will - although Budd hasn't done a bad job with his first run through.

I had no idea you were so tied to existing structures and so negatively inclined toward democratic change and evolution. I assume you supported Campbell’s decision to deny official opposition status to the NDP after the 2001 election. After all, they only had two seats – and clearly hadn’t earned the right to represent anyone’s views any longer.

I'll just post one small item that helps, I think, to make the case for exactly what a mess governance, civic responsibility and representative democracy are in, in this country.

When I lived in Ontario and worked in several provincial and federal campaigns, we would have been shocked at this statistic:

Total votes 4,421,628 cast out of a possible 8,380,702 (52.8%).

That's appalling- if almost half of Ontario's electors can't even bother to vote, it's time we some other 'parties' involved who will get people involved in their own governance again.

As for the commentariat, I heard a New Zealand political scientist debating MMP with an Israeli academic last weekend and both of them remarked how frequently the press and politicians have been completely wrong on how much better it represents all members of society – especially women.

Mind you, I can't even get the leader of our provincial opposition to answer an email anymore – the system is clearly broken.

I think true proportional representation would provide people and parties with a way to engage again.

As I've written, I don't like STV and I think it's a bad choice. Nevertheless, I'll be voting yes because, bad as it is, it can’t be half as bad as the situation we have now.

More later…..

Ian King said...

Bill,

"pretending that STV supporters are all political virgins..."

You said that. I didn't. I merely observed that FPTP enjoyed strong support from the hackocracy. Of course there are some party hacks who support STV. A few exceptions to the trend of FPTP appealing to established players, STV to outsiders.

I'm certain that Bruce Hallsor's (understandably disliked by Dippers) prominence in the electoral-reform movement has turned off a lot of New Democrats. Doesn't do it any good, especially with the leftist meme that STV is a dexter plot to lock in the right-wing vote. The Tyee even published a couple of cretinous columns that suggested as much.

Anonymous said...

Why do you not accept the normal definition of a majority in a referendum?

Anonymous said...

Why do you not accept the normal definition of a majority in a referendum?
Allowing 40 votes to beat 60 votes is exactly the same as giving fptp voters 1.5 votes each.
Why not just do that? Same difference, exactly the same result.

Budd Campbell said...

" ... the leftist meme that STV is a dexter plot to lock in the right-wing vote."

Um, ... eh, ... ah, ... what is a "dexter plot"?

G West said...

Well Bill, I don't have time to address your argument in detail just now - just wanted you to know I will - although Budd hasn't done a bad job with his first run through.

I had no idea you were so tied to existing structures and so negatively inclined toward democratic change and evolution. I assume you supported Campbell’s decision to deny official opposition status to the NDP after the 2001 election. After all, they only had two seats – and clearly hadn’t earned the right to represent anyone’s views any longer.

I'll just post one small item that helps, I think, to make the case for exactly what a mess governance, civic responsibility and representative democracy are in, in this country.

When I lived in Ontario and worked in several provincial and federal campaigns, we would have been shocked at this statistic:

Total votes 4,421,628 cast out of a possible 8,380,702 (52.8%).

That's appalling- if almost half of Ontario's electors can't even bother to vote, it's time we some other 'parties' involved who will get people involved in their own governance again.

As for the commentariat, I heard a New Zealand political scientist debating MMP with an Israeli academic last weekend and both of them remarked how frequently the press and politicians have been completely wrong on how much better it represents all members of society – especially women.

Mind you, I can't even get the leader of our provincial opposition to answer an email anymore – the system is clearly broken.

I think true proportional representation would provide people and parties with a way to engage again.

As I've written, I don't like STV and I think it's a bad choice. Nevertheless, I'll be voting yes because, bad as it is, it can’t be half as bad as the situation we have now.

Ian King said...

Budd,

A failed attempt to be clever on my part. "Sinister plot" couldn't fit now, could it?

Budd Campbell said...

A sinister plot? On. I was thinking that "dexter plot" must be some kind of particular strategy, like a name for some kind of classic chess move that I didn't know about.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Bill , your article got a few folks talking and thats good.I suggested before that I sure hope our government spends some bucks having pro and con debate on the subject. We went and listened to one of the "Normans". But such meetings are sort of one sided and full debate isn't won by the loudest participant. And lots of folks move with caution on the thought of changing the status Quo? How will we vote? The jury is still out . So keep writing about the subject and we will read everything with an open mind DL

Antony Hodgson said...

Anonymous, STV won't keep the NDP out of government - it will give them a greater opportunity than ever to be part of a ruling coalition. Right now, the Greens are attracting a large number of voters, many of whom would quite likely vote for the NDP if the Greens didn't exist. This vote-splitting allows the Liberals to win a number of marginal ridings.

Under STV, the Greens will likely win some seats in the larger districts, but in the smaller districts (eg, 2-4 seaters), they'll likely not have enough support to win; however, their second preferences can then swing back to the greenest candidates from the other parties. STV will therefore substantially eliminate vote-splitting between the Greens and NDP and likely enable the NDP to win more seats than they currently do by capturing a chunk of the Green vote.

Wilf Day said...

Since 1941 the NDP or its predecessor the CCF has been either the government or the Official Opposition. In 66 years that's 13 years in office and 53 years in opposition.

Tell me again why this is a fair system for NDP voters?

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