Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The death of STV - an analysis of the failed referendum campaign

Bill Tieleman: Why STV failed in B.C.

By Bill Tieleman, President, No STV


May 19, 2009

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

- Sun Tzu, 544-496 BC

The single transferable vote failed for multiple reasons.

The proposal of the Citizens’ Assembly to replace our current first-past-the-post electoral system with STV was always fraught with peril, but it was only narrowly defeated in the 2005 referendum nonetheless, receiving 58 percent of the votes but needing 60 percent to pass.

And British Columbians for BC-STV released a poll on April 15 stating: “Voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum.”

But on May 12 just under 39 percent of voters supported STV, while 61 percent backed FPTP.
So what went wrong this time? Lots.

In brief: the giant STV ridings scared off voters, as did the incomprehensible STV voting system.

The fact that the only two tiny countries that use STV as a national electoral system—Ireland and Malta—had a track record going back to the 1920s that often contradicted the cheery claims of the BC-STV proponents didn’t help.

And British Columbians for BC-STV ran an unfocused campaign that attempted to replicate the approach major parties use in an election.

The yes side hired staff, rented offices, purchased 10,000 lawns signs, ran phone banks, lined up celebrity endorsements like David Suzuki, former B.C. Liberal deputy premier and now talk-show host Christy Clark, and former premier Bill Vander Zalm, and put an amazing 5,000 volunteers on the campaign.

British Columbians for BC-STV also raised probably $200,000 or more from supporters across the country and brought in high-profile advocates from Alberta, like Rick Anderson, the former senior advisor to Reform Party leader Preston Manning; Ontario, like feminist commentator Judy Rebick; and even former grunge rock star Krist Novoselic, the bass player from Nirvana.

British Columbians for BC-STV deserve full credit for their commitment to an energetic campaign that pulled out all the stops.

But you can’t sell a bad idea no matter how hard you try. And tactics are not strategy.

No STV, the official group funded by the province to oppose STV and defend FPTP, took the completely opposite approach.

No STV ran a disciplined campaign based on polling research and focus groups conducted by Ipsos Reid to direct its television, radio, and print advertising and messaging.

There were no staff, no offices, no lawn signs, no endorsements, no phone banks, and no outsiders brought to B.C.

Each side was provided with $500,000 for their campaign by the province and all available funding—including the less than $20,000 raised separately by No STV—was used to maximize the advertising buy.

The majority of the funds were put into television, with the remainder spent on print and radio, including some in ethnic media.

The entire ad buy was concentrated in the final two weeks of the campaign leading up to the May 12 vote.

That’s because our polling showed that, as of March 30, 60 percent of all voters had no idea the on STV referendum was happening just six weeks later!

We knew that voters wouldn’t start thinking about STV versus FPTP until the last part of the campaign.

We also know that because voters already had great knowledge of FPTP and its simplicity, there was no need to explain the current system.

But explain STV? Well that’s a different and very long story.

In 2005, there were no proposed STV riding maps created for the referendum, so voters had no real idea how their existing single-member constituency would be replaced by a multi-member riding.

And post-election research showed most voters never understood STV but voted for it anyway—probably as a protest vote after the lopsided B.C. Liberal win in 2001, when they took 77 seats to the NDP’s two.

This time, the independent B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission provided clear maps that showed how reducing the 85 ridings down to 20 enormous one would look—and it wasn’t pretty.

The new STV ridings were often absurd.

The proposed North Island-South Coast STV riding stretched from Tofino and Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, east to Comox, north to Port Hardy and then jumped over the Georgia Strait to include Sechelt, Gibsons, and Powell River!

And the proposed Cariboo-Thompson STV riding would have stretched from Quesnel in the north down to the United States border!

Once many voters realized that their communities would not only share MLAs over a far-flung area but that they might not have anyone representing them, their minds were made up to reject STV.

It also helped that ridings would have up to seven MLAs and 350,000 people, making it easy to argue that would take away local accountability and responsibility of MLAs to voters.

And the different sized ridings—seven members in the Victoria area but just two in Peace River country—meant dramatically different percentages of the vote were needed to elect an MLA.
And the further you were from Victoria, the more votes you needed to send an MLA there.

That also meant the degree of proportional representation provided by STV—not a strictly proportional system even in optimum circumstances—would range from some in Victoria to next to none in smaller rural ridings.

Secondly, the complex STV vote-count system simply could not be explained in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s just one part of the 12 steps required for an STV election, according to the Citizens’ Assembly’s technical report: “If a candidate on the first count gains more than the minimum number of votes needed to be elected, the candidate is declared elected, and the number of votes in excess of the number of votes needed to be elected (the surplus) is recorded.

All of the elected candidate’s ballots are then re-examined and assigned to candidates not yet elected according to the second preferences marked on the ballots of those who gave a first preference vote to the elected candidate. These votes are allocated according to a ‘transfer value.’”

I could explain how the “Weighted Inclusive Gregory method” works for redistribution of the surplus of the vote, but you get the idea.

The proponents for STV argued you can easily rank your choices 1, 2, 3. But the math involved showed you would have no idea what happened to your vote—because there are far more mathematical combinations possible than there are 6-49 lottery pick possibilities!

These are powerful arguments against STV, but there were even more.

It became obvious to many voters that STV would increase, not decrease, the power of political parties.

The huge STV ridings would mean a need to reach far more voters in a 350,000-person STV riding than in a single-member riding of about 50,000 people, making candidates even more dependent on political parties to get their names and message out.

And claims that smaller third parties and independents could be more easily elected under STV were shot down by the cold hard facts of politics in Malta.

In that STV country, Maltese voters have failed to elect a single third-party candidate since the 1960s and no independent since the 1950s. Ouch.

Finally, the Citizens’ Assembly had recommended that if adopted, STV be kept for a minimum of three elections—that’s 12 years, running to 2025—before considering any changes.

For those who support true proportional representation like that under the mixed-member proportional system, the STV lock-in would have likely meant no chance of adopting a better system.

In the end, the weight of negative arguments against STV became overwhelming for a strong majority of voters, and its 58 percent support in 2005 evaporated into just 39 percent on May 12.

The future of electoral reform in B.C. is unclear, but what is certain is that STV is now dead.
.

30 comments:

Kris Klaasen said...

Yes, it's true that STV was a real dog. though I can't argue that it is any worse than the FPTP system. Both are deeply flawed.

My only concern is that with the demise of STV there will be no electoral reform whatsoever.

At least with STV there was the option of review after three elections.

I fear there will be no change in my lifetime. Certainly none of the traditional parties will do anything. Witness the complete inaction by the NDP on this file over the past four years.

Anonymous said...

Be careful on predicting the death of STV . . . Bill.

Christy Clark, like "The Mummy" still walks the earth and she wants to be Canada's first elected Woman Prime Minister so call it STV or even STD it won't be dead until you put a stake in its heart and that's only good if you can find its heart.

The GREAT SATAN

Anonymous said...

If STV is, as you say, "incomprehensible", how is it that a few paragraphs later you say that you "could explain" it if you wanted to?

Anonymous said...

A couple of things Bill:

“You can’t sell a bad idea no matter how hard you try.”
Not necessarily. Isn’t Gordon Campbell is sitting smugly in the premiers office again?

“It also helped that ridings would have up to seven MLAs and 350,000 people, making it easy to argue that would take away local accountability and responsibility of MLAs to voters.”
MLAs aren’t accountable to their ridings now. They vote the party line or else their relegated to the backbenches and forced to run as independents next time around if they wish to continue their political aspirations.

Electoral reform? How about political procedural reform and allow MLAs to vote anonymously in the house.

RS

Anonymous said...

Bill, if you're so sure STV is dead, why are you still campaigning against it?

BTW, a few of your claims are simply untrue.

"the further you were from Victoria, the more votes you needed to send an MLA there."
Absolutely untrue. Go to Elections BC and do the math. You'd need far MORE votes in dense urban ridings such as Victoria than in rural ridings such as Peace River.

"But the math involved showed you would have no idea what happened to your vote"
Untrue. This is from the Elections BC website
When election results are reported, you would be able to track your vote – so long as you remember whom you voted for, and in what order.

vancouverfamilylaw said...

Thanks for your explanation.

G West said...

Bill,
With respect, you're still dodging.

The real issue is not the need for another 'deep' analysis of what's wrong with STV or its acolytes.

That stuff is pretty obvious and it's old news. The real question - at least for me, is what's 'good' about the current deeply dysfunctional FPTP electoral model.

If it weren't so flawed and faulty then the 'need' for real change that created the push for STV (or any other reform) would not be a reality. This did not arise out of thin air my friend.

The fact STV did not win out, in an election where less than 50 % of the people eligible to vote actually did that is as much an indictment of the current mess as it is a demonstration of the failure of the fans of STV to counter NoSTV’s negative publicity.

I've still seen less than nothing from you (and political dinosaurs like Plecas) about what's GOOD about the current system. I can’t help thinking that case is so threadbare because it’s so patently obvious that FPTP is NOT working.

Maybe it's time to address that side of the issue. To my way of thinking, defending the rot is a lot tougher assignment than attacking STV.

Because FPTP is an abysmal failure too.

I think that's the thing you should be addressing.

Despite the fact that STV lost, there are still a great many British Columbians out there like me who voted for it, not because we loved it or agreed with everything the fan club had to say about it, but because, bad and unproved (and possibly dangerous) as it is, STV was a damn site more progressive and responsive to the actual needs and desires of the electorate than the current system.

neil said...

Without a doubt the NO side ran a very effective campaign based almost totally on a single advantage FPTP has over STV. STV is more complicated. In response to every advantage that STV has over FPTP the NO response was "STV is too complicated" and what Tieleman, the seasoned campaigner, knows is that if you can repeat your message often enough people will buy it. The fact that STV is more complicated to count than FPTP is true, but 'too' complicated? Considering the benefits I think not. This is where the YES side failed. To point out the many negatives of FPTP they feared the perception of participating in negative advertising.
The thing that annoyed me most about the media through all this was the absence of fact checking. Despite the CBCs Reality Check feature they totally failed to address the many lies perpetrated by the NO side eg. "And the further you were from Victoria, the more votes you needed to send an MLA there."
I am still amazed that Tieleman still tries to propogate this lie. Under STV all MLA's would need to win approximately the same number of votes. Differences would arise not because of the voting system but because of BC Elections definition of boundaries. The boundaries as published would have meant the opposite of what Tieleman states. But even then not the bizarre differences we have now under FPTP. Kootenay West MLA has 11000 votes North Coast less than 5000.
The other big mistake of the YES side is failing to remind voters that their fellow citizens on the citizens assembly were able to comprehend STV and preferred it to FPTP. Not only do we dislike politicians but also the recommendations of our fellow citizens!

DPL said...

Some folks supported the STV at first, as you mentioned because of the huge lopsided election in 2001 and of course the arrogant guy who became premier. He didn't even have the gonads to accept the two women opposition as the Official Opposition. Sure kept his supporters happy as he stepped on the other party. Many of us felt, heck anything beats what we were stuck with. Some of us knew folks from the Forum and just how hard they had worked to come up with something that might work. Some forum folk admitted the STV had not been their choice. But it's all water under the bridge. The folks running the no side had no problem reminding folks that a change, any change may or may not be better than what we have now.

The massive ridings must have discouraged folks. It sure bothered me. I've voted many times from way outside the country for elections in the riding. we had to be read the names of the candidates. I don't want to have to do that anymore. My MLA is a couple of blocks away.I see her in the shopping center. If I want to aks her anything I can do that. She may toe the line of the party but I figure she gets to argue her position in the caucus meetings. All associations argue internally but pretty well should and do follow the position they collectively take. The leader, put there by the MLA's themselves have the authority to drop the leader if they really oppose his or her position. Just ask Maggie Thatcher. My God, the house doesn't sit Fridays so MLas can get back to their constituencies to listen to the folks who may or may not have voted for them. With massive ridings it appears that there would be massive travelling times. God knows Gordo doesn't allow the ledgislature to even open during the times his own Legislation calls for. Imagine what might happen if MLAs started burning out from those trips just getting back in touch with the folks. Bill explained some but not all the problems involved. That would take a considerable length of time. We live in a pretty big province, with a lot of assorted issues that affect locals in those different areas. Malta is tiny Ireland is not huge. Yes folks may want change and should lobby for it if they want. The majority in big numbers voted to keep it as it is now.

Rod Smelser said...

Is there any truth to the rumour I started that the Citizen's Assembly was convened by Premier Gordon M. Campbell as a means of evacuating electoral reform and good government activists from the party system, sending them on a psuedo-philosophical wild goose chase where they couldn't do his party any damage? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

"Electoral reform? How about political procedural reform and allow MLAs to vote anonymously in the house."

Oh yeah, that's a bright idea. How are voters going to know how their MLA voted in the house?

RG said...

Good post, Bill. I agree with most of what you say about STV, but I see one error in your post.

Bill wrote: "And the proposed Cariboo-Thompson STV riding would have stretched from Quesnel in the north down to the United States border!"

This is not exactly true. http://www.bc-ebc.ca/proposed_stv/districts/cariboo_thompson

My concern about the Cariboo-Thompson STV riding is that all the elected MLAs will come from Kamloops leaving the Cariboo with no local representation.

Anonymous said...

That makes three out-and-out falsehoods combined with a bunch of misleading statements and half-truths.

They gave you a half million dollars to run with that???

Bill Tieleman said...

If some of you insist on being sore losers, at least do the research and get you facts straight!

And calling your genial host a liar and worse won't make your incompetence any more attractive to my many readers - but it could result in your posts being rejected in the future.

You might also grow a spine and put your real name to your comments like some people here do, but nonetheless let's correct your errors.

First - the map of Cariboo Thompson stretches from Quesnel in the north to the U.S. border.

You need to see the STV ridings map at the government's Referendum Information Office, not the earlier Electoral Boundaries Commission maps - they were superseded when the Legislature decided to over-rule their suggestion to eliminate some northern ridings.

The correct map can be found here:

http://www.gov.bc.ca/referendum_info/attachments/cariboo-thompson_bc-stv_electoral_district.pdf

Secondly, the statement from the No STV newspaper ads - "And the further you were from Victoria, the more votes you needed to send an MLA there." - is correct.

Voters in Victoria, with a riding of 7 MLAs, could elect an MLA with 12.5% of the votes cast - that's due to the size of the riding.

Voters in Northeast riding, with just 2 MLAs, - would elect an MLA with 33.3% of the votes cast.

In other words, it takes far more votes to elect an MLA in Peace River country than in Victoria - it should be self-evident if you understand STV and how it works - apparently you don't!

It also shows how the degree of proportionality under STV would have been radically different for different parts of the province - another reason it was rejected.

Finally, to Garth West, I'm happy to talk about the benefits of First Past The Post but I suspect you either know them or don't really care and are just being argumentative.

FPTP is simple to understand, can be explained in less than 30 seconds, is used in the oldest democracy - Britain, the richest democracy - the United States, and the largest democracy - India.

Under FPTP, Canada and British Columbia have prospered greatly and enjoyed majority governments of different political stripes while also seeing a wide variety of parties elect members, as well as independents.

Could FPTP be improved? Certainly. The first step now in my view is to improve the functioning of the B.C. Legislature to give MLAs more independence and more resources.

Ensuring that MLAs could vote freely without affecting the confidence of the governing party is one idea.

Making it a requirement that the budget pass with a greater vote than a simple majority in the Legislature is another - that would ensure the governing party negotiated with the opposition to get the budget through.

There are many other legislative reforms that would make the system better.

But for some, including some members of No STV, a truly proportional and better electoral system is the answer. Now that STV has been defeated, that discussion can also take place.

Watch this blog for more soon on reforms to the BC Legislature.

Anonymous said...

Bill, you said this:
"Voters in Victoria, with a riding of 7 MLAs, could elect an MLA with 12.5% of the votes cast - that's due to the size of the riding.

Voters in Northeast riding, with just 2 MLAs, - would elect an MLA with 33.3% of the votes cast.

In other words, it takes far more votes to elect an MLA in Peace River country than in Victoria - it should be self-evident if you understand STV and how it works - apparently you don't!"

In the two Peace River ridings, there were a total of 15,453 valid votes cast. Under STV, the number of votes required to guarantee a seat would be (15,453/3)+1 or 5,152 votes.

In Greater Victoria, there were a total of 158,018 valid votes. The number of votes that would guarantee a seat there would be (158,018/8)+1 or 19,753 votes.

As you can see, I understand STV very well. I just don't believe that 5,152 is more than 19,753.

Help me out with that.

G West said...

Thanks Bill.

But that’s pretty thin gruel - I'd set the achievements of coalition governments all over the world against the questionable value and the spotty (not to say criminal) record of a pure majority any time.



Let's look at the past 35 years in both the United States and Great Britain for a few prime examples named Reagan, Bush and Margaret Thatcher.

Those products of First Past the Post aren't much of a demonstration project Bill. Neither is that lawyer from Montreal who’s testifying before the Oliphant Commission just now.

If simplicity is what you're after, I can suggest lots of alternatives that seem to work very nicely in a whole bunch of countries that don't have the extremes of inequity that Britain, the US and sadly, Canada have developed since, say, 1975.

Furthermore, those same countries seem to manage to get more of their citizens engaged and involved and VOTING than your 3 avatars do.

Furthermore, good luck on getting any permanent changes in FPTP (or legislative traditions) as long as it works the way it does now. There's just no impetus for someone with all the marbles to surrender any of them except at the point of a gun - metaphorically speaking of course.

You might want to look at what Martyn Brown and Jessica have done to the professional civil service in Victoria…mind you, a certain NDP minister called Moe did a nasty job on the public servants he was meant to work with too.

I do appreciate your willingness to move off the dead as dust STV thing and move this debate into a more productive arena – but for the life of me I can’t understand what you and Bob Plecas have in common. I never met a bureaucrat I distrusted more.

And, to end this, I wasn't being argumentative, I've never indulged in name calling here and I cerainly wasn't a rabid supporter of STV.

I do know PFTP and that's why I don't like it...but I still can't figure out why you do.

neil said...

Anonymous explains the difference between percentage of votes and actual numbers of votes. I can certainly agree that the percentage of votes required is more outside of Victoria, but that is not what the statement says. It clearly says more votes not percentage of votes are required the further you are from Victoria. I find it hard to believe that Bill doesn't understand this. If he really doesn't, then he is merely repeating a falsehood. If he does understand but chooses to repeat it anyway, then he is lying.

Bill Tieleman said...

The percentage of votes to elect an MLA is 12.5% in Victoria and 33.3% in Peace River - if that doesn't make sense to you then what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Now give it up.

As to Garth West - come on - we can play "which electoral system resulted in the worst leader" for ages - but they weren't necessarily products of the electoral system!

Do you really want me to search for other right-wing politicians who were elected under other systems?

And then argue how that electoral system - rather than how the politics of the country, the socio-economic circumstances, the parties involved, the leaders present, etc, etc, etc, - was responsible?

That would be a waste of your time and mine.

G West said...

Not really Bill.

In fact I don't think you could do it, on balance, because I think I can produce two examples of good progressive results for every bad example you can muster.

But I would like an honest assessment of the reality of coalition government and the real solid achievements for the whole of the population of countries where majority government isn't the only game in town.

I just don't believe you, or the facts, justify your belief in a system - especially for social democrats - that has not served the population of this province nor this country very well at all.

If you had a strong case to make for the continuation of FPTP I think you'd have made it. You haven't - and you certainly haven't demonstrated how to restrain the consolidation of power in the office of the premier in this province under the current winner take all system.

In fairness, you haven't made the case for FPTP any more effectively than the STV worshippers did. In fact, probably not as well. They at least are responding to a widely held belief that things just aren't working any longer.

Truth to tell, that's as much behind the turnout disaster as anything I can ascertain.

Truly. You're sounding more and more like an ingrained politico like Plecas - and that kind of cynicism doesn't wear well on a social democrat.

Sorry, but that's the way I see it.

One decent government every 20 or 30 years has left kids, mothers, the old, the sick and the schools and the social fabric in tatters.

As people who care about ends rather than means it's time we did better.

Bill Tieleman said...

Garth - I haven't the time or inclination to mount an extended discussion of FPTP just because you want me to. The referendum is over, STV lost.

The future of electoral reform is up to the people of the province - go talk to them and not to me - I've had my say.

neil said...

Bill said:"The percentage of votes to elect an MLA is 12.5% in Victoria and 33.3% in Peace River"
Neil said: "I can certainly agree that the percentage of votes required is more outside of Victoria"
So clearly we are in agreement on this point.
However is Bill able to see that the actual number of votes would be less in Peace River than in Victoria?

G West said...

Dunno Bill,
You seem to me to have plenty to say when it suits you my friend. Can’t, or won’t – again, I think that’s a point for reasonable speculation.

But when the job of defending the current system and its aberrations gets a little difficult - and you and I both know it is - the fact you're speechless is a trifle strange.

Tearing down things is pretty easy: Actually justifying your point of view and the company you keep is much more difficult. You took this position remember? That involves some kind of public responsibility to be accountable.

I would have thought fairness and equity would have been more important to someone like you who prides himself on defending the people's interests against entrenched power and worn-out traditions.

I'm no STV booster, but I'm not blind either.

The suggestion that the current method of electing our representatives needs littls more than a couple of procedural band aids is nonsense. And I can't help but think your reluctance to engage in that discussion will be kind of interesting for your readers to know about.

Cheers anyway.

Bill Tieleman said...

For an interesting discussion of reforming the BC Legislature see the article now online on this blog from Michael Geoghegan.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for the intelligent debate and comments here but I have to say that with regret, I have had to reject several posts.

As regulars know, I run a pretty much free speech blog here - but I refuse to run posts that violate a few simple rules - no profanity, no defamatory comments and - more recently - no calling your genial blog host rude and insulting names.

Sorry, but I am not putting a lot of effort into creating and maintaining a blog so that anonymous or otherwise shameless individuals can call me a variety of names without either proof or consequence.

Therefore, be warned.

If you want to call me a liar, cretin, scumbag or whatever other unimaginative terms you come up with, find somewhere else to do it.

And particularly given the topic of this posting, I find it highly ironic that those who wanted STV passed to create a more cooperative political environment can resort to the worst sort of smear approach and unprincipled attacks imaginable.

The true supporters of STV I admire, if disagree with. They have not and would not lower their standards despite their disappointment.

For others who can't behave in public, go somewhere else - you are not welcome here.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Such heated words about the small print! (But the devil is in the details, so goes the cliche.) I'm most likely way out of my depth here, but I do regret that so many people in this province feel unrepresented. It seems to me that the coalitions in gov't that STV would result in would give some voice to points of view outside the mainstream. If the NDP were forced into a coalition with the Greens some real changes could happen. But then again you might have the tail wagging the dog. Nevertheless, a significant amount of alienation exists among those who feel unrepresented. And how do you change the perception that it doesn't matter who you vote for anyhow?

dave w said...

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

~George Bernard Shaw~

DPL said...

Hey folks.Let's just say some of you agree to disagree and move on. speaking of moving on , the Green leader was on TV this evening with a gaggle of her supporters. Must have been at least a dozen folks in sight of the camera. She claims the object is not just to get informed candidates but to get elected. Isn't she a big STV supporter.I read today that adrian carr intends to run federally but a very long term green in Ontario has called it quits. I have no crystal ball, but figure STV won't surface again for a long time. But heck I've been wrong before. I believed with all the overruns assorted court cases, a couple of candidates under investigation, that Gordo's gang was going to get the boot. silly me

Anonymous said...

Bill, perhaps one of the days you will realize that there is a difference "votes" and "percentage of the vote".

One is an absolute, the number of people required to elect an MLA. The other is the percentage of those required to elect the voters.

Your statement was misleading, but in all truth, the campaign was probably lost before you ran the first of your advertisements so no hard feelings.

Under STV, the votes required per MLA will always similar but the percentage of the vote differs.

In 2009 with FPTP, the percentages of the votes differed from 37%-72%.

Anonymous said...

I guess, DPL, it depends what you mean by surface. It's still early after the election (heck, we're still waiting for a result in two ridings) so people are still talking about it and it's never dead as long as that is happening. While opponents to STV, and in some cases any electoral reform, would like to see it disappear only time will tell how many people drop it from their list of conversation topics.

Some people (Bill, yourself and a few others here) have already done so. Some people (mostly anonymous) are still trying to educate people and if they are like me, make it their #1 topic. But of course it's not just here, there are people on the street talking about what's next for their group and they still believe they have the answer.

I'm more open to other ideas but I'll probably keep coming back to STV. What I find amazing is how many people still have no idea what it is they were invited to vote on, or worse actually voted before getting the information sorted out. Who can blame them though with both sides not explaining how it works properly.

Here's a thought. Somebody somewhere will produce a report on exit polls. Which will be greater, the % of people not voting or the % of voters that were not well enough informed about the referendum question ?

And I agree, I was sure that the Liberal run was over as well simply because so many people had had enough. A friend who surprised me by voting Liberal still remembers NDP scandals so I guess people are still even more upset with the NDP, and still about 90% of the voters are voting for one of these two disaster parties. I think I understand voter apathy.

Maybe it's time for a third, fourth or fifth party to take over the minds of voters. Greens have been splitting off some NDP votes for a while, Conservatives are ready to pounce if the Liberal party becomes any less viable and the Refederation party can make a case for attracting anybody who wants none of the above and in so doing achieve the useless fledgling 3rd party status. Now that's democracy in stagnation.

Antony Hodgson said...

Bill, nice to see that you're talking about the need for further reforms - that's certainly something we can agree on. I agree with you that MLAs should have more independence and more resources, that they should be able to vote more freely, and that more negotiation be involved in the budgeting process.

However, I'm still not clear what principles guide your thinking. More specifically:

1. If you value more independence in MLAs, presumably this means that you would expect MLAs to more frequently vote against their party leader's wishes so that the party leader could not automatically rely on a legislative majority. Would you therefore agree that it wouldn't be terrible for smaller parties to have representation in the legislature? Would you go even further and agree that having more than two party perspectives in the legislature would be a positive thing? If you answer either of these questions affirmatively, do you personally believe there is any legitimate basis for a third party to win a seat other than by winning a plurality election in a single member riding?

2. I know that during the referendum campaign, you spoke strongly about the importance of the MLA's local representation role. If MLAs are to be more independent and speak more directly on behalf of their constituents, would you support the use of instant runoff voting to ensure that the person elected is the one with the greatest popular support rather than the one who merely won a plurality?

Finally, I'm not clear what would motivate the party in power to move in the directions you propose. What process do you feel would have the greatest likelihood of producing these outcomes?