Press Release: ‘Does Premier Clark Have the Courage of Her Convictions?’

According to Fair Voting BC, regardless of which party won the most seats last night, it was certain that half the voters would remain unrepresented for the next four years.

“We honour all those who care enough about our public life to run for office and to come out and vote”, said Fair Voting BC president Antony Hodgson, “but we also sympathize deeply with those who feel that there’s less and less point voting.”

“The fact is that nearly half the voters will now have to suffer being ‘represented’ by an MLA they don’t support.  There is no excuse for disenfranchising so many people when almost all other advanced democracies vote in ways that guarantee that nearly all voters help elect a candidate they support.”

Voter turnout in last night’s election also dropped significantly and ended up below 50% for the first time (~49% vs 51% in 2009).  Initial estimates suggest that 10,000 fewer people voted this year, despite BC’s population growing by over 200,000 people during the past four years.

“This drop shows there’s an increasing disconnect between the people of BC and the politicians who claim to represent them,” said Hodgson.  “Premier Clark recognized this problem four years ago when she said, “Every year, as we get more frustrated [with the way our political system operates], fewer of us take the time to exercise our franchise – our most important democratic right.”  This frustration and disengagement poses an increasing challenge to the government’s legitimacy.  The new government must treat this growing threat seriously and take meaningful, significant and conscious steps to re-engage the public in our core political processes.”

“Voting reform is the first and most important change we must make,” said Hodgson.  “Premier Clark understands this and knows that it won’t be easy.  As she said in 2009, “many of the people who are actively campaigning against [voting reform], … relish the ugly realities that are the consequence of our first past the post system.””

But she added, “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 [in 2009], they won’t give you another chance.”

Now that Ms. Clark has been re-appointed Premier, she has the power, the responsibility and a rare opportunity to revitalize our democracy.  Fair Voting BC asks the Premier, does she have the courage to take on the established interests and follow through on her convictions about the deep and abiding need for voting reform?

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3 thoughts on “Press Release: ‘Does Premier Clark Have the Courage of Her Convictions?’

  1. Just before the 2009 BC-STV referendum I did some thorough number crunching and found that if the BC 2005 General Election had used the STV, it would have still created the same two-party lockout but giving the NDP the majority win (assuming a 2009 legislature size of 85 seats). I included the MMP method and found that the Greens would have had 8 seats generated from the party list ballot (LIST) under MMP and nothing from the candidate ballot (CANDIDATE):

    2005 GP LIB NDP Seats
    FPTP 0 51 34 85
    STV 0 39 46 85
    MMP 8 39 35 82

    Digging deeper one finds that the Citizens’ Assembly was forced to abandon the MMP option because of restrictions set by Campbell’s BC Liberal government, which would not have allowed any increase in the number of legislative seats. This seems to be the same kind of restriction set in Ontario back in 2007, which is an obvious obstacle for voter support of MMP in BC (and I suspect that was the plan all along): create the illusion that your government is behind electoral reform but make restrictive conditions that are unacceptable to referendum voters. The other big wall to reform success is that voters who support FPTP winners in either the BC Liberals or the NDP are unlikely to align with electoral reformers because they know that they can control a majority of seats given the right conditions. The other 8-12% of disenfranchised voters could never convince enough of them to reach the ridiculous 60% benchmark.

    One big obstacle for me with MMP is the “party list” ballot not being a voter chosen list. Here is a simple way around it (I’m sure someone else has already come up with something better):

    BMMP Best Mixed Member Proportionality

    The BEST way to protect voter choice with a MMP system would be to calculate the eligible LIST candidates based on their “Popular Vote” per riding and then rank their percentages, largest to smallest. That might remove a party leader but represents fairness to voters who might have voted stronger proportionally in a riding for the LIST, but had not elected anyone on the CANDIDATE side. It also eliminates list candidates in ridings where there was very poor support for a party. This would also eliminate party candidate favouritism (example: seniority over voter popularity, senate-style benefits).

    1. Will – thanks for your comments. We haven’t run the numbers for the 2005 election, but I would be very surprised if what you say is true. With the numbers from the 2009 election (Popular vote: Lib/NDP/Grn: 46/42/8; seats: 49/35/0), I would estimate that the outcome would have been something like 45/38/2/1 (Lib/NDP/Grn/Ind), while strict proportionality would have yielded 39/36/7/2/1 (Lib/NDP/Grn/Con/Ind). With STV, parties win seats wherever their local strength gives them one seat’s worth of votes, so the largest parties tend to win a few more seats than their initial vote share would warrant on the basis of transfers from the ballots of candidates who don’t have a seat’s worth of support in any given district. However, outright reversals of seats compared with the popular vote is extremely unlikely under STV – I suspect your calculations got reversed since the vote shares for the Liberals and NDP were virtually identical in the 2005 and 2009 elections (46% vs 42%); without actually calculating the numbers, I would still estimate 45 seats to the Liberals and 38 to the NDP, with room for a couple of Green party candidates in Vancouver and Victoria, Vicki Huntington in Delta, and maybe a Conservative or two in the Okanagan and Fraser Valley. Remember too that people can vote more honestly under STV – they can freely support their real first choice without fearing that their vote will be wasted. If their top preference does not win, they can still have a say about the remaining candidates. This will tend to increase expressions of support for the smaller parties and may be enough to have some of them win. In any case, the results under STV are likely to always be a smaller majority than a party would get under FPTP, a larger opposition, and an increased opportunity for some representatives from smaller parties to get elected in modest numbers.

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