What a night last night! Now that it’s clear that the final result won’t be known until about May 22-24, we have a moment to reflect on what has happened so far and to speculate about the future. Here are some things we know for sure:
Half the Voters Are Still Unrepresented
BC voters cast just under 1.8 million votes last night. About 910,000 were cast for elected MLAs, while 890,000 were cast for candidates who did not win election. This means that barely half the voters (<51% of us) are represented by an MLA we support. This is par for the course for First-Past-the-Post voting.
Swing Ridings Rule the Day
17 of the province’s 87 ridings had a winning margin of under 10%, and 7 had a margin of under 5%. This means that most ridings (70 of the 87) were pretty safe bets for the winning party. Indeed, of the 75 ridings whose names stayed the same since the last election, only 14 changed hands this election, with an average vote shift of only 7%. As we all know, currently only 9 votes stand between a minority government, possibly led by the NDP, and a majority government led by the Liberals. Indeed, a swing of under 500 votes (e.g., in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, Richmond-Queensborough and Vancouver-False Creek) could mean the difference between a Liberal majority and an NDP majority, despite neither party having more than 40% of the vote. A proportional voting system would be much less sensitive to small vote shifts – to swing an election from a 50-40 majority to a 40-50 outcome would require a vote swing of more like 85,000 votes here in BC.
A Majority Wants Electoral Reform
Close to 57% of voters cast their votes for parties that explicitly promised to take steps to introduce proportional representation before the next election. Even if the Liberal Party ends up winning this election, this is an important milestone.
“Us vs Them”: Exaggerated Regional Differences
The seat map is striking – the NDP won almost all the seats on Vancouver Island and across the central parts of Greater Vancouver, while the Liberal Party won all the seats in the eastern Fraser Valley and almost all the seats in the Interior. Does this reflect how people voted? Not at all. The NDP took two-thirds of the seats in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island on 40-45% of the vote in these regions, while the Liberal Party took over 85% of the seats in the eastern Fraser Valley and the Interior on just over 50% of the vote. But in all these regions, the second party had close to 30% of the vote (and the Liberals had close to 40% in Greater Vancouver). Why should these voters not have an MLA who shares their political perspective? Such exaggeration is damaging to our ability to make good provincial policy decisions. Whoever forms government needs to hear from voices across the province. First-Past-the-Post silences those voices.
More Women Elected
The number of women in the BC Legislature increased slightly, from 31 of 85 to 33 of 87 (36.5% to 38%), which is a higher percentage than any other legislature in Canada (Ontario is second at 35%). Women represented 41% of the Liberal Party candidates, 51% of the NDP candidates and 38% of the Green Party candidates. This percentage is up by 10% on average over the 2013 numbers for the Liberal Party and NDP. However, women won only 30%, 46% and 33% of those parties’ seats, respectively, suggesting that perhaps the parties tended to place women in less winnable ridings (the Liberal Party’s gap of 10% suggests that they may have done this to a somewhat greater extent than the other two, who had only a 5% gap each). Nonetheless, the increase does confirm the importance of increasing the number of women nominated. But we can do better – some forms of proportional representation (e.g., STV) would ensure that virtually all ridings would be competitive, so we could remove that largely invisible barrier of ‘unwindable’ ridings.
Higher Voter Turnout
Another slightly bright spot was the (estimated) improvement in voter turnout – currently estimated at about 57% (up from 55% in 2013, and from 51% in 2009, but it hasn’t been above 60% since 1991 (64%)).
More Indigenous MLAs
The election of Adam Olsen (GP) and Eliss Ross (LP) brings the total number of indigenous MLAs to 4 (joining Melanie Mark and Carole James of the NDP). [CBC story]
While we wait for the final outcome of last night’s election to be decided, we will be hard at work preparing our Charter challenge, in which we will argue that our current voting system violates our charter rights to effective representation and equal treatment. So far, we have pledges of over $135,000 towards our goal of $360,000. Please help us reach this goal!