Monday, January 12, 2009

NO STV chosen as NO proponent in May provincial referendum on Single Transferable Vote

The BC government has announced who it has chosen as the NO and YES proponent groups in the May 12, 2009 provincial referendum on the Single Transferable Vote electoral system - and I'm happy to report that NO STV - the group I am part of - has been picked.

I was very much involved in the May 2005 STV referendum that saw this complicated, obscure and problematic electoral system defeated by a narrow margin and look forward to a vigorous campaign again this year.

Fair Voting BC is the YES proponent and both sides receive funding of $500,000 from the province for educational campaigns in support or against STV.

Below is NO STV's news release:


Official Proponent - NO to the Single Transferable Vote - May 2009 Referendum

NEWS RELEASE Sunday January 11, 2009

NO BC-STV Campaign Society chosen by province as official NO proponent on Single Transferable Vote in May 2009 referendum; group successfully fought STV in 2005 vote as “KNOW STV”

VANCOUVER – The group that successfully opposed the Single Transferable Vote or STV electoral system in the 2005 referendum has been chosen by the province as the official NO proponent for a second vote in the May 12, 2009 referendum.

The decision means that the NO BC-STV Campaign Society – or NO STV in short – will receive $500,000 in provincial funding to run a campaign opposing the Single Transferable Vote, says NO STV president Bill Tieleman.

“We are very pleased with the decision of the Attorney-General’s Ministry to give our organization the responsibility for running a vigorous educational campaign to defeat the STV electoral system proposal, which we believe would be disastrous for British Columbia,” said Tieleman, a communications consultant and newspaper columnist.

“STV is a confusing and complicated electoral system that would take away accountable local elected representatives and replace them with regional MLAs in ridings with as many as seven members,” Tieleman said. “STV also gives unequal weight to votes in different ridings, fails to deliver true proportional representation, especially for rural voters and would make it harder for independent and third parties to elect MLAs.”

Tieleman said that “KNOW STV”, the group that successfully fought STV in the 2005 referendum, has been renamed the NO BC-STV Campaign Society, a registered non-profit group.

NO STV Secretary-Treasurer David Schreck said the problems with the Single Transferable Vote explain why it is such a rare and obscure electoral system.

“STV is only used as a national government voting system in two small, island countries – Malta and Ireland,” said Schreck, a former NDP MLA. “STV has been around since the 1920s in both those countries but no other country has adopted it in over 80 years – why would British Columbians want such a bizarre electoral system with so many problems?”

NO STV’s other directors include former Social Credit cabinet minister Bruce Strachan, former BC Citizens Assembly representative Rick Dignard and former Green Party Vancouver school trustee Andrea Reimer, now a Vision Vancouver city councilor, Schreck said. Other active members include former provincial deputy minister Bob Plecas, former NDP cabinet minister Anne Edwards, former Citizens Assembly member Jyoti Gill, Trinity Western University political science professor John Redekop and business owner Paul Gill.

Tieleman said NO STV is completely non-partisan in its approach, noting that in the 2005 provincial referendum it brought together BC Liberal Party, New Democratic Party and Green Party supporters to oppose STV, and its position was endorsed by former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett and former NDP premier Dave Barrett, who both warned of the dangers of STV before the vote.

The Single Transferable Vote was proposed as an electoral system by the BC Citizens Assembly in late 2004. The referendum rules, which remain the same for the 2009 vote, require a 60% majority of all valid votes in the referendum to be in favour, plus the referendum also requires that 60% of all constituencies in BC vote in favour of STV by a simple majority.

In May 2005 STV received 57.7% of the votes cast, failing to reach the required 60%. The BC Liberal government subsequently decided to hold a second referendum.


Chris said...

Sorry Bill. I enjoy your writing and usually agree with you, but you're on the wrong side of this debate.

I'm voting Yes to STV.

Anonymous said...

Things are a bit different this time around. At least both sides will be able to put their ideas forward as there is funding.

A lot of folks were quite passionate last time as they were pretty fed up with the Campbell massive majority and wanted something, almost anything, to find a way to get rid of him.
Now we can have a sober look at it.
One of our family friends was on the group that picked the system so lets all see what they have to say. Nothing beats a sane debate. I really don't know which side our family will go, but we do think 50 percent plus one should be the benchmark. Not some number Cambell pulls out of a hat.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't give a fiddlers fig if the STV goes yes or no. What concerns me though is, the undemocratic process requirement of a 60% majority to pass, this or any BC Govt referendum. This requirement should be challenged, it is fundamentally flawed. The norm for passage as we all know should be and usually is 50% plus 1. Additionally the disposition of your funding ($500,000) may be disproportionate for this referendum . As the NO supporters receive $500,000, proportionally, then, the YES supporters should receive $700,000, as simply stated they must canvas or convince 60% of the YES voters to win, versus only 40% of the NO voters to defeat the referendum, quite a substantial amount less than the yes requirement. In other words the odds are skewed in the no sides favor by 20%. Im sure you Bill,being a fair minded person will agree and see to this wrong be righted.

Wayne Smith said...

Actually, the reason STV is so "rare and obscure" is that politicians don't like it much. They like to have their own little private fiefdom where they usually don't have to compete with serious opponents.

Voters like STV fine. Irish governments have tried twice to get rid of STV with referenda, but both times, Irish voters told them to keep it.

Your suggestion that STV will make life harder for minor parties and independents makes no sense. One of the main reasons for STV, or any proportional system, is to offer voters more viable choices and make sure almost everyone gets to elect somebody they voted for.

Mtn Goat said...

Hmmm - I've had a look at the STV proposals and they don't seem all "that" complicated. It may not be perfect, but what in a democracy really is? Surely you can't be asserting that the "first part the post" system is really representing the will of the people? Surely you can't be trying to maintain that fiction? Can you? Really?

Anonymous said...

I do not understand those who say "STV is so complicated". What is the difference between marking 1,2,3, 0r more as compared to marking an X in a square, as the numbers will also be in a square.
Are those who say it is too complicated for us citizens literally telling us we are dumber then the Irish or the Maltese? I hope not. I agree with those whose position is against the 60%. Yes, this is a number spouted by Campbell even though all of
Canada voted on a referendum that would have separated
Canada with a 50 + 1 line. Is a change in our voting system much more important then a split in our Nation? First past the Post may have been a very credible system in the beginning of the last
Century, but it should have been put to pasture in the 1950's. Please try to get this referendum onto a level playing field, 50% +1. Jo5ey

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your continuing support in the fight against STV, Bill. There are many reasons that someone could wish not to see our voting system changed but, for me, the top issue is the eventual computerization of the more complex STV. Once this system is changed, we will be at the mercy of Gordon Campbell and his henchmen. The only thing anyone needs to know about this debate is that, if STV is accepted, the arguement for voting machines and computerized counting will be relentless ("to improve the speed of accountability" or whatever excuse is used). Once that occurs, you will NEVER be able to say "I know this election was not a fraud" again. Has no one been paying attention to the American voting machine fraud? Do you think Gordon Campbell and his ilk will take the high road and not "do whatever it takes" to get elected?

For the record, ANY computer system can be hacked and you will never know when or if it has happened. You will not be able to trust the outcome of any vote in the future. Our current system, with paper ballots and scrutineers from each party, is a system you can trust and has a paper trail.

Go ahead, vote for "change" if you must but always remember that it was your own fault that you lost your democracy.

By the way, do you REALLY think that Gordon Campbell is for STV because it is more democratic? I think some of you should give your heads a shake before you lose your only hope of democracy in the future. Gordon Campbell is not your friend. Stephen Harper is not your friend. No CEO of a corporation is your friend, and they will do whatever it takes to screw you for every penny you have or will ever make...Just say'n in all...

Wayne Smith said...

BC-STV will use paper ballots. The votes will, of course, be tallied by computer, as they are now.

Jeff Barkley's concerns are groundless.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Sure. No problem. I'm absolutely certain that paper ballots will remain. Hmm, lets see....I bet we don't make it through 1 more election cycle before the right wing decides to pursue the "improved results tally's" or "Make sure that electors get their results as soon as possible, unlike those socialists that would have us count the votes manually". Btw, I have been a scrutineer during both federal and provincial votes and they were counted manually at the polling station with the number placed on the box. All political parties were present for the counts....That is THE way to do it. Anyone that tells you it can't continue to be done is not telling the truth. Its as simple as that.

G West said...

Tallied by computer now?

Individual poll station results may be totalled by computer Wayne, they are 'counted' by hand.

We do not use computerized counting or voting machines in Provincial or Federal elections Wayne.

Wayne Smith said...

I know that votes are counted by hand. I have done it myself as a DRO. At some point, the numbers go into a computer to be totalled.

STV votes likewise will be totalled by computers. There is still a paper trail so the results can be verified or recounted.

STV results can be calculated without computers. Australia has been using STV since at least 1948, and Ireland since about 1922.

I wouldn't like to see voting machines either, but it's a separate discussion. Bringing up some imaginary problem in an unspecified future instead of arguing the present proposal on its merits is a classic rhetorical fallacy, although I could could think of less polite things to call it.

G West said...

Agreed; as to counting - although I think there is a much greater chance of a move to electonic voting if and when STV is adopted.

Some other important points need to be made though:

1. It wouldn't be fair to leave readers with the impression that STV is THE only electoral system in Australia - it isn't.

2. STV is the method used to elect the Australian Senate and it is also in use in some regional and local elections there as well; STV has been used for parliamentary elections in Eire since 1919 it is also used in Northern Ireland– but not for members of the House of Commons in Westminster. Local governments use the system in Eire and also in Scotland since 2007.
And of course, in Tasmania – where it got its start – and in Malta, and for some elections in New Zealand.

Readers should not get the impression that STV will necessarily adapt well to the electorate and the particular conditions in a place like BC.

Anonymous said...

The proponents of STV are only those who support the easy way for fringe parties to gain any legitimacy in the hope that the more their idle ramblings and unending horse shit is shoveled, the greater the chance that the masses will accept such asses. The other part of that group, are those who will use the system to attempt to manipulate the results--period. Look for major court challenges in the years ahead if we are STUPID enough to promote such idiocy.

Garth West and doctrinaire far left-wing loons in bed with Gordo and the boys.

I'll remember that next time I'm reading some drivel from them...

The gods have gone mad...

Anonymous said...

Alex in his own little subtle style has hit a few nails on the head. I mentioned before that many people voted for the new method hoping to get rid of Gordo's massive control of the Province.Many elections seem to end up with a bunch of deadwood with very small numbers. Some fringe groups, and I incude the green's want a toe hold on the gravy train called politics. Now that both sides have some funding let's see some meaningful debate. I notice the NO side web site is now back up and running, which is a good start. I notice as well, that both Bill and David Schreck are on the same side of things. Let the debates start.

G West said...

You really should read a little more closely; the suggestion that I'm any kind of an ally of Gordon Campbell or the STV mafia is absurd.

Try again, try harder.

That's the kind of thing I was trying to point out to you a couple of months ago Bill.

Anonymous said...

If the STV is not that hot, what other countries use some sort of election other than first past the post or STV? Do they simply require a majority of some percentage and if that doesn't happen do they then go the Horrors or Horrors coalition route, which our now federal government worked so hard to confuse folks telling them it was not legal etc etc. Maybe both sides could explain the options we never got to vote upon. Just asking?

Anonymous said...

Just a passing thought, but here it is. Every Political party in Canada, uses a form of STV to elect their leaders. So, if it is good enough for them, why not give it a try for the voting public. If you disagree, just take a step back and think of how the low vote recipient moves,in a party vote for leaders, ist choice, 2nd choice and so on.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for the comments and sorry for the late reply.

On the issue of leadership conventions raised by Jo5ey: That's not how they work actually.

Voters at conventions get to vote again each time and can change their vote - under STV you vote once and then your ranked preferences may or may not be counted.

At a convention your vote counts fully as one vote; under STV your vote may be counted fully, fractionally or not at all.

DPL asks about other systems than First Past the Post - many European countries used Mixed Member Proportional, where there are geographic ridings and party-designated seats as well to attempt to give close to the percentage of seats as the percentage of votes.

This system was overwhelmingly rejected in Ontario's referendum.

There is also PR List, with no ridings at all. The parties simply get the same percentage of seats that they got in votes but no politician has a riding to represent - obviously only possibly viable in a very small country - not BC.

There are also run-off elections, where a second election is held if no one gets an absolute majority.

And there are still others.

To Mtn Goat: ranking choices is obviously simple - figuring out what happened to your vote under STV is not. Votes are fractionalized and your vote might not even be counted depending on the complicated system that is used.

I won't go into the detailed description of the voting process here, as it is readily Googled, but suffice it to say that the "Droop Quota" isnt' exactly simple.

Lastly, even Bruce Hallsor of Fair Voting BC - which is the proponent for STV - admitted in a debate with me on CKNW that the system isn't "strictly proportional" - which goes against what many others think and say. Bruce is correct.

Anonymous said...


Spare me the lectures. You're on par with Rolf Auer in my book.

Maybe it's you that should reread what you wrote.

Hey, I thought you were never going to post on Tieleman's blog again?

C'mon now...don't screw that up as well.

G West said...


Nope. You're wrong about that too.

Bill did answer my private email and we settled that little contretemps amicably.

You just haven't been paying attention, further, the suggestion that I'm any kind of apologist for STV is absurd.

However, like most of the nonsense you write instead of practicing real journalism, it is pretty typical.

Keep trying, you may eventually get someghing right - remember that stopped clock?

Wayne Smith said...

DPL said, "If the STV is not that hot, what other countries use some sort of election other than first past the post or STV?"

Read the final report of the BC Citizens' Assembly here:

They give an excellent summary of voting systems around that world that they considered, and why they chose STV for BC.

Wayne Smith said...

Bill said, "Under STV your vote may be counted fully, fractionally or not at all."

This is disingenuous. STV is designed, more than any other voting system, to make every vote count as fully as possible. That is entirely the point of the system.

There is no perfect voting system, so yes, there are a few votes that count "fractionally or not at all". However, under FPTP, most votes count "not at all", and by "most" I mean "more than half".

Anonymous said...


How can I put this on a level you'll understand...hmmm, let me think...perhaps I'll ask my three year old.

Actually, here, let me address you as you have no doubt been addressed countless times before.


I'm going to take lectures in writing from some two-bit, mindless, doctrinaire hack for the Marx set???

I don't think so.

G West said...

It is lessons in reading and understanding that I'm recommending for you Alex.

Because you've already got the mindless name-calling and ad hominem written stuff down pat now. I'd never pretend to 'teach' a master like you anything dude.

And I suppose that's Karl you're referring too, it couldn’t be Groucho: Because he was actually funny - you're just a witless clod.

See what I mean Bill?

Anonymous said...


Stop trying to get into the head of Garth. We have tried for years and each time we walk away laughing. There is nothing worse than this, stop it. You are obviously a very bright man with strong opinions but you should not lower yourself by trying to understand Garth. He thinks he is an intellectual. It's the only thinking he does. Free yourself Alex and forget this idiot.

G West said...

Nice to see you have an ally Alex - too bad she doesn't actually have a name.

Another member of the STV mafia no doubt. More and more evidence of what I told you earlier Bill.

Sad, really.

Anonymous said...

I find it both disturbing and distressing to see so much personal and insulting comments when we are supposed to be commenting on a NEW way to elect our representatives that form our Governments. As I see it, we do not have any representation with this outdated and obsolete FIRST PAST THE POST SYSTEM, we need a change desperately and we do not need a pizza parliament like Italy or Isrial, we do need something tangible and that works, like Ireland, and we are not that stupid that we cannot mark a ballot, 1,2 or 3 etc. And Bill, I do not understand your comment that votes in the STV system D O NOT COUNT, what about our votes under this outdated system. Do they all count? Jo5ey

Anonymous said...

Some commenters follow Bill Tieleman's lead that STV is "complicated obscure and problematic". Lets look at this. The complication in voting system is the draw-back of giving authentic representation of the whole population's wishes.
The simplest system is a dictatorship that ignores everyone else's wishes.

First Past The Post is a simple count because it ignores everyone's wishes but the simple majority, which can be quite a small proportion of a single member constituency.

The single transferable vote was invented to do the job properly of
taking into account everyone's wishes. How close it comes to doing this depends on the count being more proportional the more seats in the constituency.
A proportional count applies the principle of equal representation that FPTP falls far short of.
STV's preference vote gives the voters an order of choice, so their votes are transferable, not wasted on already successful candidates or the most lagging candidates.

STV is the free voters' PR because individual representation is in the hands of the voters. FPTP is a frustrating system that minority
politicians can get round to implement unwanted policies.
STV gives the voters a much better chance of electing candidates more in line with their aspirations.

Thus, the principle of STV is plain enough, to apply democratic voting system with a proportional count of a preference vote.

Nor is STV "obscure" in its usage. It is rarely mentioned how widespread STV is in elections not controled by politicians.

As to "problematic", this is a case of the FPTP beam needing removing before removing the STV mote.

Richard Lung.

ReeferMadness said...

Before the Citizens Assembly report, I'd never heard of STV. I watched in bewilderment as "progressives" trashed STV because they couldn't get their favoured system MMP.

The conclusion I've reached is that STV is generally favoured by people who don't associate strongly with a single party. It is strongly opposed by party insiders of the major parties because:
1) They will have to share power with minor parties like the Greens
2) Even worse, their influence within their own party will diminish because STV focuses more on individual candidates. MMP, by contrast, concentrates power in the party leadership.

neil j sutherland said...

I have been out of the country for a while.
After communicating with opponents of first the Mixed system, and then STV during the 2005 referendum, describing how these systems 'in action' contradicted the stated goals of the Citizens Assembly,
I went back and wrote to Gordon Campbell and Carol James, describing a system closest to the Swiss one, which met all of STV's stated favorable qualities, and also met Carol James, Adrien Carr et al's criticisms of STV.

Gordon Campbell wrote be back, thanked me for my effort, and could find absolutely no fault in my argument.

Yet, not only did he end with an implicit 'so what',
-- vs support the infallible logic solution to the stated goals --
but much to my disappointment

carried out a classic 'agenda setting' exercise,
offering the voters not a
'choice' between 'A' or 'B'
(where the 'Swiss' system beats all others in any two-at-a-time contest),
but a 'Hobson's choice' or a negative veto.

kind of like between Calvin Coolidge (STV) or Bush (stuck with FPP)