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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Proportional Representation Is about to Pass in British Columbia

The Single-Transferable Vote (STV) is a system where each voting district (riding/constituency) has multiple members. You vote for several candidates by ranking them from most preferred to least preferred. If a candidate gets more than the minimum number of votes needed for election then the "surplus" votes are transferred to the second choice candidates.

If, after transferring "surplus" votes, there are still candidates to be elected, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the votes are transferred to the voter's next choice. This process of elimination and transfer continues until the required number of candidates are elected [BC-STV].

The system was chosen by a non-partisan citizens' assembly.

A majority of voters in British Columbia voted in favor of this form of proportional representation in the last referendum but they failed to get the 60% majority required to change the voting system. It looks like they will succeed on May 12th, making British Columbia the first province to abolish the old first-past-the-post system and adopt a form of proportional representation.

I'm certain that Ontario won't be far behind. We lost the vote for proportional representation last time but that was probably because the general public didn't understand it. That, plus the fact that many prominent newspaper columnists and editors lied made untrue statements about the dangers of proportional representation. They didn't understand it either.

April 15, 2009
Poll: 65 per cent of British Columbians support BC-STV
Younger voters overwhelming in their support

Vancouver, B.C. – The numbers are in and British Columbia voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum on May 12. That is the top line result of a major survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies. Support for a new way of electing our MLAs is particularly strong among younger voters – those 18 to 34 – at 74 per cent.

“The survey results indicate that British Columbians and particularly younger voters are ready to embrace a new electoral system in British Columbia,” said Catherine Rogers, vice president, Angus Reid Strategies. “A large majority are looking for electoral change and want an electoral system that is fair and that elects MLAs who are more accountable to them.”

When presented with the question that will appear on the ballot, 65 per cent said yes to BC-STV while only 35 per cent chose to keep the current first-past-the post system. Angus Reid Strategies conducted the online survey March 9 to 12 and polled 702 British Columbians across the province. While support for BC-STV continues to grow, awareness of the upcoming referendum is at 44 per cent.


  1. that was probably because the general public didn't understand it.Ah, the common and comforting refuge of the losing side.

    "Many voters just didn't understand the damage that Obama will do."

  2. that was probably because the general public didn't understand it.More to the point I think was the seriously flawed provision for overhangs, as the number of proportional seats was far too small given the two-vote system used.

    Compounding the injury, the offending language was inserted in an off-the-record teleconference, with literally only hours remaining before the final vote, after having been considered and quite sensibly rejected by the constituent assembly twice previously. The assembly was then told to either sign off on the amended package or scuttle the entire initiative.

  3. We're not counting our eggs before they're hatched here in BC. Many people are still not aware of the referendum or what it means. So everyone with an interest in this needs to use their networks to raise awareness about it. Like this post, glad you support it! I hope Ontario would follow as well, of course BC will never let them live it down that they are following an idea from the 'West beyond the West' :)

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  5. Here in Ireland we've been using the multi-seat PR system since the 1920s. In many ways it has been good, because it increases responsiveness to constituency concerns. Just because the voter may prefer the other party doesn't mean he won't slip you a 2nd preference which may make all the difference to you.

    The disadvantage is that it promotes a clientelist system, where the local boys has to look assiduously after local concerns that can be trivial. It means we get a lot of country solicitors and two-bit tycoons who never think beyond the parish boundaries or the next election. The German system, which combines local candidates with a national list system, would free up representatives to look after national and longer-term questions.