This is a guest post by Reena Meijer Drees, who is a New Westminster resident active in the campaign supporting BC-STV. Watch for a follow-up post tomorrow on the potential impact of electoral reform on local politics. You can read more about BC-STV on Reena’s blog and STV.ca (“Yes” side) or nostv.org (“No” side). Opponents of STV are welcome to respond in the comments and/or write a guest post supporting their position.
Remember the referendum on electoral reform in 2005?
I never paid the slightest attention to electoral reform before we had that referendum here in BC. I didn’t even know that reform was possible.
After the referendum, though, I started reading about electoral systems, and the more I’ve read, the more indignant I’Ive become about the way politics works here in BC. I’ve become convinced that we need a change.
Don’t think we need a little shakeup? Check out this quiz on the bc-stv website. It really brought the issue of “fairness” to the front, for me.
Here’s a list of what bugs me about our present, “first-past-the-post” system here in BC:
- there is almost no relationship between the popular vote, and how many seats a party wins. This means that sometimes, the wrong party wins – that is, the party with the lower share of the popular vote actually forms a majority government!
- the usual state of affairs is that it takes only 40% of the popular vote to form a single-party majority government. What’s worse, the more parties there are, the lower this number gets. Just check out what happens federally. Please tell me why this is still called a “majority” government…
- the number of votes it takes to get elected varies like crazy. In 2001, every 12,000 Liberal voters got an MLA. That year, it took 171,000 voters to get an NDP MLA in, and the 200,000 Green voters got nobody. This is fair to nobody – not to the NDP, not to the Greens, not to the voters. And results like this happen all the time.
- the Legislature doesn’t reflect BC’s diverse population. It is still overwhelmingly white and male.
political parties don’t seem very interested in working together to achieve anything. Whatever happened to our glorious history of doing things “for the people”? Campaigns are negative, attack ads and mudslinging the order of the day.
- when it comes to voting time, I get the feeling that I’m wasting my time. I know in advance who will win in my riding, so voting for someone else is throwing my vote away. With a system like this, why bother voting?
- my MLA doesn’t ever seem to do very much for my riding. We’ve had hospital closures, and now ongoing school issues (will we EVER get a new high school?), and our MLA doesn’t appear to me to be much of a voice for our concerns.
What causes these problems? Is it democracy itself?
Nope. Turns out that most of these things can be fixed – or at least given a kick in the pants – by changing the way we elect our representatives. There are plenty of different systems in use around the world, that we can look at and learn from! In fact, the Citizen’s Assembly of BC spent a year doing exactly this, in 2004-2005. They overwhelmingly recommended a system called BC-STV.
And as luck would have it, on May 12 this year, we get to vote again on whether or not BC should implement their recommended system.
What are we waiting for?
Coming tomorrow: Reena writes about what BC-STV would do for New West.