We’re having a provincial election and electoral-reform referendum, both this Tuesday May 12. I’ll be voting for the Green Party, and for single transferable vote.
Background · Our Provincial Government has for some years been run by the BC Liberals (warning: Flashturbation), who, despite their name, are the most conservative of the mainstream parties. They are not in the slightest lovable; arrogant message-control obsessives with 100% of the power centralized in the boss’ office. There have been alarming symptoms of US Republican ideology observed in unguarded moments. On the other hand, they haven’t been a terrible government, and have even started showing faint signs of environmental awakening.
The opposition, and only plausible alternative government, is the BC NDP. The NDP are social democrats at least in theory, sprawling across the mushy centre left. They have a history of forming pretty good provincial governments here and there across Canada. Unfortunately, their last shot here in BC wasn’t one of those; the party is still recovering from the self-inflicted wounds.
The NDP is clearly nicer than the Liberals, for what that’s worth; and nobody suspects them of closet Republicanism. I’m mad at them, though, because they’ve made it obvious over the last couple of years that, for them, environmental issues are tactical, not strategic, and when they consider them, their first thought is what will play well. I’m not going to bore my mostly non-local audience with details of the NDP sins, but I can’t see anyone reasonably disagreeing with my core conclusion: that the NDP has been acting like Green issues are about tactics and positioning.
On Being Green · Here’s the thing: Our economy is hurting; but not that bad. Our health-care system costs too much; but nobody has a magic bullet to fix that. We have crime issues, overwhelmingly narcotics-driven; but no mainstream politician has the courage to stand up and say “The war on drugs is over, we lost, let’s legalize and regulate and take the money (really an astoundingly huge amount of money) out of the bad guys’ pockets”.
Simultaneously, we are squandering our portion of the Earth’s gifts, and by any measure, we are way overweight in our contributions to testing the world’s temperature-control system to destruction with by frivolous carbon-overloading. Unlike those other problems, we can do something about the environmental issues. We can do it soon and we can afford to do it and there are good reasons to think we can’t afford not to.
Yep, the Greens have some mildly wacko planks in their platform, but they’re serious about the environment and far saner than the competition on drugs and crime. So, they get my vote.
The problem is, we’re in a tightly-contested riding and the Greens are probably not going to win it. So a Green vote, tactically speaking, can be seen as a vote for the Liberals.
Well, tough shit. If it takes losing a winnable election to teach the NDP to get serious about the world we live on, that’s what it takes.
Voting Reform · I’ve been kind of on the fence about the Single Transferable Vote thing. The results we’ve got over the years with mouldy ol’ first-past-the-post haven’t been terrible, but on the other hand there are plenty of ugly anomalies. So I’ve been leaning in favor, and I’ll admit some part of that is engineer’s curiosity: Let’s give this thing a whirl and see how it works.
But a full-page ad in the local paper knocked me off the fence a few days ago. It was from the anti-STV campaign, and it was disgusting. It was a litany of fearmongering, demagoguery, and, I thought, on several points skated way over the line into outright-lie territory. If the arguments against it are that sleazy and pernicious, that has to be seen as evidence in favor.
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: Dustin (May 11 2009, at 01:07)
Yep, if the NDP had truly cared about the environment I think they could have won this time.
And, if you're linking to the naughty no stv side, how about adding a link to the yes stv side as well:
I think the STV referendum is the more important vote this time around. Passing STV will help give us more choice in future elections. Hopefully we'll be finally able to actually _elect_ some green MPs.
From: Ed Davies (May 11 2009, at 02:31)
Aren't tactical voting issues the key argument for STV? 1: Green, 2: NDP says clearly what you want but also gets you what you can realistically expect. And, who knows, if enough people think the same way the Greens might actually get in one day.
From: Niall Murphy (May 11 2009, at 04:17)
On balance, I would say STV works well in Ireland, where the political culture is somewhat biased towards voting for an individual rather than voting for a party anyway. It does tend to reward clientelism and "parish pump politics" though.
From: Adrian Ross (May 11 2009, at 05:22)
Amen. STV has been good for minor parties here in NZ; not disproportionally so - just that people's votes are actually being represented now. This also makes people a little more likely to vote the way they want to, rather than voting for their least-hated major party.
Just how it is that not shitting in your own nest is still a fringe issue in the first place, I don't know.
From: Joe Germuska (May 11 2009, at 05:36)
Did you see that the Green Party is opposed to BC-STV? http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public/get_involved/submission/M/MCCRORY-1231
In any case, I'm happy to see people considering alternatives to "first past the post."
From: Matthew Laird (May 11 2009, at 06:31)
BC-STV will take the negativity out of our election, politicians will have to compete for second and third choices meaning they can't alienate their opponents' supporters. And as a former MLA argued in a debate against STV, she said it would bring TOO MUCH local representation. Eh? That's a bad thing? More local representation sounds pretty good to me. It's all about taking the system back from the political inner circle.
As for fixing the healthcare system, recommended reading:
Prescription for Excellence by Dr. Michael Rachlis. A VERY good read on how innovation can save our healthcare system.
From: John B (May 11 2009, at 07:14)
Great insight. I grew up in BC but now live in Montreal. I haven't lived in BC since that last NDP government was in power - you know, the one that spent so much money on ferries that don't work that it made those of us in BC view the federal Sponsorship Scandal as a drop in the bucket.
In Quebec we're fortunate that the Green movement is very strong, and in my riding it's even stronger, (in the December election the Green candidate finished 2nd, ahead of the PQ and ADQ candidates), which brings me to my thoughs on first-past-the-post vs. STV: I would love to see if it works well, but I'm not sure if it will work well. Isn't that the system that they use in Florida? The other thing I've noticed with first-past-the-post is it seems to keep some of the fringe parties out, and even though that includes green right now, I'm considering this a good thing. Also, on the childish side, STV sounds a bit like an STI.
From: Paul Cotton (May 11 2009, at 08:09)
>If it takes losing a winnable election to teach the NDP to get serious about the world we live on, that’s what it takes.
Unfortunately many of us have been trying to teach the NDP this lesson for decades and they don't seem to have figured it out (either in BC, Ontario or federally).
From: Dethe Elza (May 11 2009, at 09:38)
Tim, I'm 44 years old and joined a political party for the first time in my life during the last federal election: the Green party, and for many of the reasons you discuss above. But I won't be voting Green this election.
Campbell's "Liberals" have been selling off the province to private (often American) interests as fast as they've been able to. If they succeed in selling off water rights, there will be no way for us to take them back, short of retracting NAFTA. We cannot afford to let Campbell win this election, the stakes are too high to allow these crooks to win just to teach the NDP a lesson.
As for STV, passing it will make it easier to vote Green without feeling that we're wasting a vote or handing the election to the party we least want to succeed. It is not perfect, but it has at least been tried and tested fairly widely. Personally, I would prefer proportional representation, so if 20% of the people vote Green, we get 20% Green MLAs.
Here's the thing: If we pass the STV, it will be easier in the future to replace it with something better. And it will be easier to vote Green without giving Campbell license to sell off public assets.
From: Julian Fitzell (May 11 2009, at 09:59)
That anti-STV ad in the Straight had me boiling with rage too. It was, at best, misleading throughout but, more likely, intentionally misleading and, as you said, in places, factually incorrect.
I'm really depressed by the poor quality of debate we have seen over this important issue: the anti-STV side is spouting lies and red herrings and the pro side seems unable to even communicate the benefits.
Any voting system is a trade-off but as far as I'm concerned the benefits we're getting from STV are greater than the downsides and it's getting my vote. And despite what the NO camp says, if it doesn't pass this time (2nd referendum in a row), we're not going to see another chance in the next decade.
From: Tyler Gooch (May 11 2009, at 10:18)
Some form of proportional representation is desperately needed at the federal level. Minority governments are a likely side-effect, but it's pretty clear that they work just as well as majorities. (No worse, anyhow).
Currently residing in Alberta, I'm not as concerned with our provincial electoral system. We're pretty much stuck with what we've got, regardless of how you count the Conservative votes.
Hopefully STV passes and works in BC. Could be a great incubator for the rest of the country.
From: Val (May 11 2009, at 16:45)
Dunno much about most of the issues in the post, but I do have an opinion on the tactic of voting for a sure loser to teach the party you'd like to back a lesson:
I have a close friend who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 for that very reason. Too bad, he said, it'll teach the Democrats a lesson. Well, it split the Dem vote just enough, taught the whole country a lesson, and we (and you, and everyone else on the planet) had to live with the consequences for 8 years (and will have a hangover for FSM knows how much longer).
Just sayin' ....
From: Tony Fisk (May 11 2009, at 20:38)
This is where a proportional voting system comes in handy.
At the last Oz election, I voted for the Climate Coalition (despite the good Dr K getting his sums wrong on carbon sequestration) It wasn't because I expected them to win, but because it sent a clear message to the majority parties where the policy votes were coming from.
Apart from a myriad of other bones, Howard and the neo-libs were thumping the same tired line of 'going green will hurt the economy' (It's scary: some economists *really* don't see that you can have an environment without an economy, but not vice versa) so voting for them in any way was not an option for me.
Unfortunately, a 'first past the post' system doesn't give you the luxury of voting by conscience. I suggest you vote for the lesser of two evils, rather than fence sit.
From: Leo (May 12 2009, at 14:17)
I think that STV is a pretty good system. One thing it allows is a protest vote. You can give your no-hoper special interest candidate your first preference, and if he doesn't make it, then your vote can transfer to compromise candidates that have a better chance of winning.
Plus it makes great television. Anytime there's a general election here in Ireland, I'm glued to the telly for about 2 days, watching the count results come in. Of course, we're still using paper and pencils here, but that adds to the drama as the count lasts longer.
And I'm pretty narked at the nostv campaign - trying to malign STV by showing some shenanigans in the Dáil. It's not like first-past-the-post hasn't elected some chancers in the past.
From: John (May 12 2009, at 17:51)
Tim - why do I shudder every time you talk politics? Perhaps it's because you inevitably make sweeping generalizations about the Republican party or how "alarming" its ideology is. Granted, the party's "leaders" have wandered recently, but heaven forbid that anyone should subscribe to Republican philosophy (http://comp.uark.edu/~collrep/crphilo.htm). You must be loving life with the exact opposite in the Oval Office right now.
From: Doug (May 13 2009, at 10:26)
The irony is that STV was torpedoed by Adrienne Carr's petulant withholding of support in the first referendum 4 years ago, saying it wasn't her first choice, and that mixed-member proportional was better. Green support would've put it over the top the first time....
The 'No' side, and the vested interests they represent had 4 additional years to plan and spin, not to mention $$ for a campaign....
Maybe the Greens can reflect on that while they spend the next 40 years in the political wilderness waiting for the next referendum on electoral reform....
From: Ryan Cousineau (May 29 2009, at 10:12)
I'm late to the game here, but that means I get to post now that the STV referendum has failed.
I'd point out that BC-STV offered very little benefit in terms of increasing the proportionality of representation, unless people suddenly changed to voting for individual MLAs as people, rather than voting for their party preference.
The reason is that BC-STV offered a solution where you were voting for four MLAs and each party offered four candidates in your super-riding.
So unless there was an individual candidate in your riding that you really liked regardless of their affiliation, or a candidate you disliked despite them being from your preferred party, you pretty much would choose to vote straight-slate, right?
The result would look much like the City of Vancouver's councillor elections, where near-sweeps by the preferred party were almost always the order of the day.