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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BC STV: Bill Tieleman, president of 'No STV', makes his case

STV is the single transferable vote.  It's on the ballot here in BC on May 12th.  Voters will be asked to choose between the existing 'First Past the Post' system, and 'BC STV'.

Last Friday we spoke with Bruce Hallsor, co-chair of the BC STV 'Yes' campaign -- to ask him to address the concerns libertarian-minded voters might have with the new system.  You can read that interview here.

This week we spoke with Bill Tieleman, head of the 'No' campaign.  To begin with, we asked him for a Twitter summary of the case against BC STV:

Bill Tieleman, president of the 'No STV' campaign (BT): We oppose BC STV because it creates giant ridings of up to 7 MLAs and 350,000 people that takes away the local accountability and responsibility of MLAs to voters.

The Western Standard (WS): From your perspective is this referendum going to be an uphill battle, or do you believe that you already have the votes to win?

BT: We believe we can win the referendum again, as we did in 2005.  The double majority threshold of 60% in favour across the province and 60% of all ridings voting in favour as well is a difficult but fair test for such an important referendum.

WS: Do you believe that limits on third party advertising during the campaign are effecting your chances of winning?

BT: No.  Each side has $500,000 for advertising provided by the province plus the ability to raise more money.

WS: How will STV effect the Recall and Initiative act, and will it raise the already high barrier blocking many citizen initiatives?

BT: We do not believe it will have any impact at all.  Changing the Act would require a legislative majority regardless of the electoral system.

WS: If STV loses this time around, do you believe that it will be brought forward again, or is this our 'last chance' to get electoral reform?

BT: We believe that rejecting STV this time would ensure it does not come back again.  But that also opens up the possibility of different electoral reform.  Some of No STV’s members and supporters believe that there are better electoral systems than either First Past The Post or STV, such as Mixed Member Proportional or Proportional Representation List systems.  If STV is passed, however, it will be locked in for a recommended minimum of three elections – that means 12 years with our four-year fixed election dates – so BC would be stuck with STV until at least 2025 – that’s a long time with a bad system.

WS: Wherever we see proportional representation, we also see a proportionally large state.  Possibly this is due to the presence of smaller hinge parties and the brokering that involves when it comes time to form a coalition.  How do you address the worry that libertarians may have, that proportional representation will mean bigger government?

BT: We take no position on whether or not proportional representation should be introduced – No STV is a coalition whose sole purpose is to defeat STV.  That said, an STV system would like incur larger costs for government due to the large ridings requiring additional offices and staff in order to attempt to represent voters over much larger areas, particularly when there may be no MLA responsible for those areas.

WS: Finally, Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about BC STV?

BT: STV’s complicated voting system “fractionalizes” your vote, chopping it up into many pieces so that you will never know exactly where it went – another reason to oppose STV.

STV’s proponents claims are simply inaccurate in many cases.  For example, Malta has had STV since the 1920s and has not elected a single third party representative to its parliament since the 1960s nor an independent since the 1950s – yet STV advocates claim it helps smaller parties and independents get elected.  Given that only two countries with less than 1/10th of 1 per cent of the world’s voters use STV as their national electoral system – Malta and Ireland – the example of that country is very important.

STV proponents also claim STV takes away “safe seats” from legislators – in fact, Ireland has TDs -  members of their parliament, the Dail – who have been elected for 30, 40 , 50 and almost 60 years straight!  And claims that STV creates a “cooperative” legislature and removes party “control” are equally wrong.  Irish politics are among the nastiest and most party-dominated in the democratic world.

We encourage your readers to visit www.nostv.org for much more information.

The third part of our STV series will be here next week.

Posted by Robert Jago on April 29, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


"If STV is passed, however, it will be locked in for a recommended minimum of three elections".

This is pure fearmongering, and Bill know it. He knows that nothing, except for the constitution, can bind a legislature. While the Citizens' Assembly recommended BC try STV for three elections, there's nothing (except maybe public outrage) to stop a majority of the legislature to change the electoral system in any way they want.

You see British Columbians, this is just another further example of how backroom political hacks, like those in the NO STV campaign, are trying to bamboozle you into voting to keep the current electoral system.

Do you that maybe, just maybe, if the same old political operators who have reducing the power of individual MLAs and centralizing power are so against BC STV, that it just might be a good thing?

Posted by: Partisan non-partisan | 2009-04-29 11:44:34 PM

"chopping it up into many pieces so that you will never know exactly where it went"

This is a frequent lie out of Bill's mouth. BC-STV is 100% transparent. After elections, the transfer paths would be made public so any voter who wished to know how their one vote was optimized they could just look it up. This is why BC-STV is twice as effective at making your vote count as our current system.

Since BC-STV beats our current system in every way, all the No side can do is spread misinformation and fear-mongering. Don't let it work. Vote BC-STV.

Posted by: Niilo John Van Steinburg | 2009-04-30 2:53:40 AM

Mr. Tieleman has nothing good to say about his antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system. He is an insider party "hack" who probably relishes the thought of his leader becoming premier with a false majority in the legislature. He can join his leaders' inner unelected staff in Victoria where he will have more power than the local MLAs.

Posted by: Roger | 2009-04-30 4:26:33 AM

More fear mongering. Anyone truly in favour of reform for Proportional Representation given how difficult it is to make change would jump at the chance to pick STV over FPTP as a step in the right direction. BT's a party insider and protecting party control. Why would I trust BT's judgment over that a randomly selected Citizen Assembly with no conflict of interest as professional politician with an interest, who took the time that I don't have to take a whole year to learn election pros and cons and make a judgment in favour of voter interests NOT politicians? Any reply BT?

Posted by: thc | 2009-04-30 2:13:26 PM

Fear mongering? that's rich! rewind four years! "If you don't vote for STV you will never have another chance" FOUR YEARS LATER? same drivel, systems are improved and tweaked around the world on a constant basis and NOT TO STV! nothing like going to vote with a gun to your head.I would ask the yes side who's the fear monger? STV IS NOT THE ANSWER!

Posted by: Rick Dignard | 2009-04-30 4:10:19 PM

Bill Tieleman is misleading when he claims that voting NO to STV could bring in a 'better' form of PR. First off, killing STV will likely prevent ANY chance of electoral reform for decades to come. Its now or never for BC.

STV is not a system of pure PR - that is exactly 33 percent of the vote will equal exactly 33% of seats in the legislature. This kind of purity was rejected by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, and for good reason. Most pure PR systems (MMP, Party List) put all of the power regarding the selection of candidates in the hands of party leaders and insiders. The voter's job is to show up and mark an X for the party brand - red, green, yellow - with no choice over candidates. This is why long time party men like Bill Tielman like 'pure' PR.
STV by contrast is roughly proportional. This effect is the purpose of the larger, multi-member ridings we have heard so much about. In these larger ridings the needed threshold of support to get elected is lower and there are more candidates elected per district. As a result, we should expect to see proportional results within each district. Parties such as the Greens or BC Conservatives should expect to elect MLAs in areas of the province. However, the key difference (and reson for superiority of STV over other systems) is choice. Voters are able to choose not just amongst parties, but amongst individual candidates even within their party of choice. On voting day, I do not simply have to pick red, green or yellow - but I get to choose which shade of red, green, or yellow I want, rather than having it foisted on me. It is this combination of proportionality and voter choice that makes BC-STV a superior system, and worthy of our support on may 12.

Posted by: Simon Little | 2009-04-30 5:42:41 PM

How is this double standard a fair test? If we used the FPTP post system he is trying to defend the yes side would have won 77-2. That just goes to show the amount of support this measure has across BC. It is an incredibly large and difficult test to pass but passing it will ensure no contest. It would show support beyond any doubt but the fact that is was so close last time it should have been allowed to pass with a simple majority this time not the same double standard.
I can't believe he's mentioning lists! As if the parties don't have enough clout now he want's to move to a system where party discipline is even more important. The BC-STV system was a great gift of the citizens assembly balancing both regional representation and MLA accountability to the voter and not the party. I hope BC can lead the rest of Canada into a better democracy on May 12th.

Posted by: Louis Poirier | 2009-05-02 10:46:57 AM

We need our politicians to remember that they are accountable to us and the Single Transferable Vote reform offers us this opportunity. We will no longer be forced to vote for someone to keep someone out. We will vote for the people we want to represent us versus the party we fear the least. STV is not perfect, but that is democracy folks and with more voters engaged in voting for the people they believe will represent their interests... I say bring it on!!!!

Posted by: northerngal | 2009-05-02 1:18:18 PM

BC-STV for Healthy, Prosperous and Sustainable Communities

There can be no doubt that the approach to electoral reform as laid down by the current government of BC has been rigorous, equitable, intelligent and thorough. The mixed member proportional option was carefully considered by the Citizens Assembly, and contrary to the opinions of several hundreds of people writing in and the constant advocacy of the Green Party of BC, the MMP option was voted upon and dropped from consideration. Personally, I very strongly supported MMP and, along with my fellow Greens in BC went through a difficult transition to accept BC-STV as the best remaining alternative to first past the post. Simply stated, the citizens of the assembly voted for less political party power in exchange for a more detailed counting system. Everything involves a trade-off, and In this case, a net benefit.

"Fragmentation", "Perpetual Minorities", "Complex", "Less Access", - these descriptors are not based in fact. What is true and based upon fact, is that BC-STV will provide a multi-dimensional perspective in the BC Legislature. It will no longer be the capitalists against the social democrats against the environmentalists against the capitalists, ad nauseum. On every single ballot the citizen will be able to engage the rich diversity of political thought, and to create, by voting his/her preferences, a unique outcome. The citizen can choose the party, the candidate and mix and match these combinations to provide the most powerful vote conceivable. The message this sends to candidates and their affiliated parties is - You Are Here To Serve! Fail to serve the entire population of the Electoral District, and "out you go", regardless that you may have been following the "party line".

Like all technologies, ideologies and philosophies the time of "first past the post" has reached the end of its cycle. Uni-dimensional politics is simply no longer able to address the myriad of multi-dimensional issues that we face in our economic, social and environmental lives. We now need the best of all our ideas and we need those ideas to compete and to complement in the creation of Healthy, Prosperous and Sustainable Communities. This is one crucial step on the path ahead.

And for even more fun, try out your STV vote here: http://www.trystv.ca/
John Hague,
"Creative Conflict Services, BC" ::
1379 Sea Lovers Lane, Gabriola Island, BC, V0R 1X5, 250-247-7675

Posted by: John Hague | 2009-05-02 2:19:58 PM

Here are a few comments for Bill and the other STV critics:

1) The vote-counting under FPTP is simple: Count and Elect. Under STV the counting is more involved: Count, Elect or Eliminate, Transfer to next-preferences, Repeat. It takes longer, and you have to keep track of the transfers (that’s the hard part), but this is basically third-grade arithmetic with a little bit of fractions. The Irish have handled it for over 80 years and so can we.

2 Distinct towns, communities, and neighbourhoods most often share a single MLA under FPTP. Under BC-STV, voters in more than one community share more than one MLA. Equalizing populations within boundaries is the main task of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, so ridings must often contain disparate populations.

3) When the Premier and his ministers decided to axe St. Mary’s hospital against the will of the people of New Westminster and surrounding communities, do you think it would have been better to have five local MLA’s in-his-face or one weak-kneed local MLA trying to preserve standing in cabinet and caucus? Bottom line: A single MLA from a single party cannot effectively represent my concerns in government or the legislature. That goes for small ridings in the Lower Mainland and big ridings in the North.

4) Under BC-STV, politicians will learn how to campaign and represent their constituents in larger ridings, and they will also learn how to collaborate and craft legislation that actually responds to the needs of the people. Otherwise, they’re toast. Right now, when the Premier speaks, the trained seals on the backbench jump, clap, and bark. They don’t represent me. They represent the Premier and his buddies - operating in secret and with little input from the people’s representatives. Make the politicians earn their money.

5) “Fringe” parties will obtain no seats or very few seats under BC-STV. But their voters will finally have the opportunity to obtain some representation through their second and third preferences. Responsible, smaller parties will also revitalize the legislature with important ideas that are currently not debated, and they will help keep the governing party accountable.

6) We shouldn’t fear minority or coalition governments. Fake majority governments, operating in secret, have often rammed through legislation that was bad for the people of this province. Let’s have genuine legislative debate - where issues are decided in the open and on the merits.

An election is not a horse race or a hockey game. Under FPTP, in election after election, over half the people get no effective local representation. Less than 50% of the voters get “steak” and over 50% of the voters go hungry. Under BC-STV, over 80% of the voters would get a meal - “steak, chicken, or ham.” That’s a better way to treat our fellow citizens.

Fair representation is the foundation of fair and effective government. If our representatives do not reflect the views of the voters, we will not get governments that are responsive to the needs of the people. Two parties in the legislature cannot effectively represent the diverse views of British Columbians, and a single party cannot adequately check the excesses and self-interest of the governing party. BC-TV will provide the citizens of British Columbia with more representative legislatures and more responsible governments.

Posted by: Mike Divine | 2009-05-02 4:53:05 PM

With all my respect and regard to Mr. Tieleman, there is one line of his reasoning I would like to address.

I find it a tad odd that opponents of STV often recognize the current FPTP system as deeply flawed, and suggest potential alternatives that they think may serve BC better... while failing to mention any of the flaws that are associated with those systems. Mixed Member Proportional and Proportional Representation List systems have imperfections of there own; searching for the perfect system without actually taking any steps along the journey is a recipe for slow progress.

Posted by: James Berry | 2009-05-02 9:04:21 PM

STV is more proportional, removes strategic voting, and gives more choices to voters (ie. ability to choose from people within the same party). These would all be great improvements to our system. Notice that when Bill talks about negatives of STV at the end of the article he is NOT saying FPTP is better than STV. He's only saying STV doesn't solve every single problem. No one expects it to. The positives completely outweight the minor negatives.

Posted by: Andrew | 2009-05-04 12:10:34 PM

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