Monday, May 11, 2009

Please BC, Say No to STV

Election day is fast approaching in British Columbia. The advocates for STV are making their final pushes. Here's Andrew Coyne's epic. The question for British Columbians is simple, what is more important: accountability or proportionality. The system that was proposed by the Citizens' Assembly is designed to try to appease the ivory tower concern of proportionality. Proportionality is something that is only useful to political parties, not voters. You are asked on election day, under both First-Past-The-Post and STV, to choose representative(s) for your part of the province to represent you in Victoria. You are not asked which political party most closely resembles your political phillosophy. You are asked to elect someone from your community (hopefully) to be your voice in government. One of the measures that you may choose to use in making your decision is partisan affiliation. Certainly the performance of a given candidate's party in the legislature is important. However, there are other variables in your decisions. Do you think the candidate is qualified to do the job? Do you think the candidate has your best interests at heart? These variables among thousands of others, may distort the statistical calculations of academics, they may confound the pundits paid to predict and pontificate. This doesn't make these considerations less valid. British Columbians vote on more than partisan identification. They should have an electoral system that seeks to do more than provide "justice" to political parties.

Representative democracy can only function if the representatives are held accountable by their members. British Columbians know that a "safe seat" is never safe in BC. The history of BC politics is littered with politicians who thought they could coast to re-election. Social Credit rose and fell in British Columbia. A government was reduced to almost nothing in British Columbia. A Prime Minister lost her seat in British Columbia. British Columbians hold their elected officials to account. It is a proud tradition that speaks to the basic ideals of representative democracy. STV promises that everyone will win. It lives up to that promise. It would only take 12.5% of the population of Victoria to keep an MLA in the legislature. How easy will it be for an established politician to find 12.5% on name recognition alone? Only a single member plurality system like the current First Past the Post system can provide true accountability. Only under FPTP can the people of BC truly strike the necessary fear into the hearts of their politicians. Only under FPTP will politicians pause before acting against the interests of their constituents.

Do not be distracted by the utopians promises of STV proponents. Politics aren't perfect anywhere. It cannot be as it is fundamentally a construct of imperfect people. No electoral system will make our politics more civilized. No electoral system will make politicians keep campaign promises. Utopia comes from the Greek for "No Place". Don't vote for an electoral system as a road to something that doesn't exist. On election day, vote for the electoral system that will allow you to keep politicians accountable when they screw up instead of voting for a system in the hopes that politicians will never screw up again.


Dunkler said...

"The system that was proposed by the Citizens' Assembly is designed to try to appease the ivory tower concern of proportionality. Proportionality is something that is only useful to political parties, not voters"

Having grown out in Alberta, I can tell you "proportionality" is most certainly not some "ivory tower concern". In our last election, the PCs won an overwhelming majority with only 23.4% of eligible voter support (40% turnout, 53% support). In 1993, 108,883 NDP voters failed to elect a single candidate. If you're a left-of-centre voter in Alberta, you may as well live in feudal state for all the say you get in how the province is currently run.

The metric by which we should judge the effectiveness of any democratic system should be "how well does it create governments that reflect the public's wishes". In this respect, FPTP does a fairly poor job.

Anonymous said...

If it is more important to have someone elected to represent your geographical location than someone who reflects your political philosophy, then there should be no need for political parties at all. Everyone should run as an independent and the most popular individual will prevail. C'mon now. This is politics not high school. Everyone should vote for the representative whose political party affiliation best matches their own. This will always reflect the true democratic will of the people.

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