I returned home recently from casting my ballots for the Referendum on Electoral Reform and for the provincial election. Passing a ‘save our schools’ sign near the parking lot of Connaught Heights Elementary School, we were greeted warmly by our fellow citizens and after a short paperwork check, we voted. I am one of those kooks that really like voting and now as I write, my wife and I are glued to our radios and computers, absorbing the returns (none yet) as they come in.
One point that struck me was the truth or falsity of the claim that a vote for the governing party is a wise move for a riding. The theory goes thus: if your riding has an MLA or an MP that is part of the governing party, your voice is more likely to be heard. Looking over the last 2 election cycles here in British Columbia, I don’t know if that is true. In our province, it is the opposition MLAs are able to fight for injustices, roil and debate in the legislature and generally cause a ‘hullabaloo’ on behalf of the constituency.
Think of the Liberal party discipline: write a questionable letter, you’re out. Speak up against established party doctrine: you’re out, or side-lined.
If you think about it, most of the reasons you need to get your MLA to go to bat for you are due to the actions of the government. School policies, hospital closures, waste and transit initiatives that impact your community; these things are brought by government and if there is a real concern and if your rep is in government, aren’t you S.O.L?A concrete example is MLA and AG Wally Oppal and insurgent indy candidate Vicki Huntington. The popularity of Ms. Huntington can be seen as a direct result of Mr. Oppals inability to represent the views of his riding in the public forum. If his voters don’t see him as their man, whose is he?
That brings me to STV. Imagine a riding with more than one MLA. One in government, one or two in opposition. Even if you voted for the MLA that is in government as your #1 choice, you have two other reps to go to bat for you if the some policy of the government threatens to bite you in the rear. Gone is the four year dictatorship. Instead we get a continuous conversation with the citizen.
As we go into the next cycle, I hope the STV will have passed, and the results of the next election will truely reflect the views of British Columbians and the citizens of New Westminster.