Christy Clark on the Need for Voting Reform

Why I’m supporting STV

Posted 5/7/2009 12:00:00 AM

In the last election I voted against STV. I even campaigned against it.

The single transferable vote, an idea that was launched by an assembly of non partisan everyday citizens, didn’t appeal to me. At the time, I believed my vote was the right one because I liked the current system of selecting MLA’s.

Looking back, I realize I liked our current system because it served my interests well. I was an elected politician who had been chosen under the first past the post system. I, like many of the entrenched interests who are today fighting against STV, didn’t see a need to change a system that was working – for me.

But since I have left politics my view has changed dramatically. Part of it has been due to the fact that I sit here in this chair at CKNW every day and hear from you. What do I hear?

I hear that people are sick to death of the way our political system operates.

(And I note that that frustration is bearing itself out at the polls as we see fewer and fewer people, especially young ones, showing up to vote. Every year, as we get more frustrated, fewer of us take the time to exercise our franchise – our most important democratic right, and one that thousands of Canadians died to preserve.)

People tell me they’re sick of seeing their vote thrown in the garbage if they live in one of the 2/3 of ridings that are safe and they didn’t happen to vote for the incumbent party.

They’re tired of electing politicians who ignore what their constituents want and do what their leaders want them to instead.

And I hear that people have had it up to here with politicians who attack each other relentlessly in an endless vitriolic war of words that poisons us all against our democratic process.

I have learned through my own experience in radio and in politics that while those are all things that likely bother you, they don’t for one moment bother the hacks, the backroom boys, and the politicians who are served and elected by our current system.

And when I look at so many of the people who are actively campaigning against STV, some of whom you often hear on CKNW, that is what I see: strategists and interest groups who have grown accustomed to the power the current system grants to them. I see people whose interests and in many cases, whose income is dependent on keeping our system the way it is. People who, unlike you, relish the ugly realities that are the consequence of our first past the post system.

They are fighting STV because the change it will bring frightens them.

First, it will force all politicians to compete for all of your votes. Candidates will be looking to be your first choice, but if not, then your second, or your third. In this context, no MLA will be safe forever, and every vote will be counted. We will stop throwing vast numbers of votes in the garbage once one candidate gets their 35%

Second, politicians will be forced to listen to their communities first and their leaders and parties second. When you vote you will have several choices to pick from your favourite party. If, for example, you are a committed BC Liberal wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose from among them the one who was brave enough to stand up for you and against his or her party and stop the road, prison, or big polluter from going through your back yard?

Wouldn’t it be nice to choose the one who actually listened to you between elections?

Third, because STV will give you choices from among individuals, and you will have the choice to select the one you think is the smartest, most ethical, someone you can respect. How many times has a political party in your riding foisted a candidate on you who is an embarrassment but whom you vote for anyway because they are with the party you like?

Say good-bye to voting for bumblers who are destined for the backbench, because with STV you get to choose the best person not the party back roomers.

Fourth, the level of hateful invective will diminish radically. Under STV all politicians will have a strong incentive to get along better. They will be hoping to be the second or third choices of their opponents and supporters. The toxic insults and nasty rhetoric will be turned to a lower volume as politicians stop trying to win by ruining their opponents and instead start acknowledging them.

To me this is the biggest most important change that STV will bring about: civility in politics. I believe we need a new civility in our society and politics is where it can begin.

On Tuesday you will make two choices. The first is a short term choice of who will run our system for the next four years. You will vote for someone who has been chosen for you by entrenched interests in a big party machine. They will be someone who will be accountable to that machine, not to you. And perhaps some of the people you vote for will get elected not because of who they are but because they have proven to be the best at slinging mud.

The other vote you will cast will be the much more important one. It will be the vote that determines if next time you will be faced with exactly the same ugly choices, or if you get to make the choices yourself.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We have a choice, perhaps a once in a lifetime choice, to do things differently. We have a chance to change our political system and remake it into one that we can have some measure of faith in. If the established interests succeed in defeating this on Tuesday, they won’t give you another chance. I hope British Columbians take this chance for real change.

I hope we take this chance and vote for STV on Tuesday May 12.

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