Thursday, April 02, 2009


Looking at things from a new perspective changes the world.

As individuals we can effect a great deal of change on the world around us but the number one way we can effect change for the environment is by voting. This is due to the fact that every level of government sets the laws and regulations that all individuals and corporations are expected to follow.

Greenwash is all the rage but sooner than later we have to really change the human impact upon the environment because the planet is showing many signs of weakening under direct pressure from our species. The public has been demanding environmental protection for years. Based on what people are doing on a personal level in terms of recycling, etc… they want to make a difference but are left with only 2 choices when it comes to voting.

Thankfully, there is an alternative, which has been chosen by 150 citizens selected randomly from across British Columbia. The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, after an extensive process, selected the Single Transferable Vote (STV) as the system that best suites BC’s population and political make up. Ireland has being using the STV electoral system successfully for 50 years.

You may remember that in the last referendum on May 17, 2005, BC came very close, with in fact 57.7% of voters endorsing STV. With such a fine margin the government had to agree to a second referendum after establishing a set of standards voted for by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. In order for the STV system to replace the ‘first past the post system’ voters use today, 60% of BC voters will have to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum ballot during the upcoming provincial election on May 12, 2009.

STV may seem complicated but is actually based on grade 6 math and is designed to make your vote count. Rather than being limited to one vote, you would be expected to list your preferences by writing the number one for your first choice of candidates; with number two for 2nd and so forth until you reach the candidates, which you don’t want to elect, where you would leave the box blank. This eliminates the need for strategic voting and allows you to vote with your conscience.

If adopted, the STV system would first be used in the BC elections of 2013 when voters would elect the same number of MLAs, that has been increased from 79 to 85, for this upcoming election. The entire province would be divided into a number of districts each of which would have between 2-7 MLAs. The Mid-Vancouver Island district would have 4 MLAs, which is equal to the number representing the same area today. You would be voting on a ballot with candidates from all parties, including independents.

Scrutinizers will still guarantee all the ballots and will oversee the imputing of data into computers, which will then do the math. Paper ballots will be kept in case a recount is necessary and as evidence of a fair count.

The reason we need a change is simple, during the 2001 election the BC Liberal party won 97% of the seats with only 58% of the popular vote and in 2005 they ruled with a majority of 56% of the seats in the Legislature but they only received 46% of the popular vote. That power shift allowed Gordon Campbell to cancel the fall session of the legislature in both 2006 and 2008 to avoid questions from the opposition. The very corner stone of parliamentary democracy is the opportunity for the public’s will to be heard by the government.

In 2005 the Green Party of BC received 9% of the popular vote but not a single MLA represents them in the Legislature. Under the STV system the BC Green Party would likely have had 3 MLA’s representing their voters’ base. Trends in other countries that use STV or a similar system, indicate that a broader spectrum of voters are represented in government and politicians are forced to come to agreements and compromises that reflects the will of citizens.

It is interesting to note that political parties, such as the BC Liberals and the BC NDP, currently use a similar STV process to elect their candidates and leaders because they know that the system the public uses today is not fair.

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