What are the problems with
the current system?
First of all, MLAs are torn between loyalty to their political party and
allegiance to the voters who elected them. This extreme party discipline is
especially bad for the Interior. We are the province's economic powerhouse,
yet our MLAs are muzzled at a time when we need them to speak out forcefully
about rural and northern concerns.
Second, excessive power is concentrated in the Premier's office. The
legislature, which is supposed to be a check on the power of the Premier and
Cabinet, is reduced to rubberstamping politics worked out behind closed
doors. We end up with four years of elected dictatorship. Under the current
system, political parties are too powerful, breeding arrogance in government
and an ongoing circus of fiascos and scandals.
Third, there is lack of proportionality that distorts election results. In
the 2001 election, the NDP and Greens received 34% of the vote; yet only 2
opposition candidates were elected, compared to 77 for the Liberals. In
1996, the situation was reversed with the Liberals receiving more votes than
the NDP, yet losing the election.
Lastly, the current electoral process fosters an extremely partisan
political culture, resulting in huge swings in government policy after each
election and an ugly political atmosphere. A new government gets elected,
and spends the next four years burning down and dismantling whatever the
previous government put in place. Is it any wonder British Columbians feel
that our province is treading water?
How will BC-STV improve things?
BC-STV gives voters more choice and better representation. Each riding will
have up to 7 MLAs depending on population, and voters will rank candidates
1... 2... 3... in order of preference. Prince George and region will have an
expanded riding (about the size of a federal one), with likely 3 MLAs
representing us. The number of MLAs relative to population will remain the
same as now.
A problem with the current electoral system is that you don't have much
choice and are stuck with just one MLA per riding, who, chances are, you
don't agree with or is from a different party than yours. Even worse, the
MLA might not be very good at representing you. Under BC-STV's multi-member
ridings, voters will not be restricted to that one MLA, but have access to
and be represented by other MLAs also. This is especially beneficial for
voters in smaller towns like Mackenzie, McBride, and Vanderhoof, who often
feel neglected. Under this new system, MLAs will rush in (and compete) to
fill any gap in the riding (rural area, small town, or city neighborhood)
where voters are not being represented. Hardworking MLAs will be rewarded on
A unique feature of BC-STV is its tendency to relax party discipline. In
multi-member ridings, candidates will run against candidates from their own
party in addition to those from other parties. This means that successful
candidates will need strong local roots and pay close attention to voters'
views in order to distinguish themselves from the pack. Candidates who put
party headquarters first at the expense of voters will not fare well. In
addition, a relaxation in party discipline gives MLAs more clout in the
Legislature to act as a check on the power of the Premier's office.
BC-STV is a more proportional system than the current one, and will result
in a diverse Legislature that better reflects the voting preferences of
British Columbians. Electing small parties or independents is easier under
BC-STV. In Ireland, which has STV, about 10% of representatives are
independents. Instead of bitter partisanship and wild swings in public
policy, BC-STV will tend towards a more coalition-style Legislature and more
civility in debate.
ith the Citizens' Assembly process, for the first time in Canadian history,
ordinary citizens have the opportunity to set the rules for elected
politicians, rather than politicians setting the rules for themselves.
BC-STV is a step forward for voter empowerment. We should take that step.