Victory via repetition?

British Columbia is renowned for its predictably polarized politics. So Public Eye is always pleased to report when operatives are able to make light of their differences. Such is what happened when Georgia Straight columnist and former provincial New Democrat government communications guru Bill Tieleman, an opponent of the single transferable vote system, received four copies of Fair Vote British Columbia's newsletter from electoral change promoter Nick Loenen. The following is a leaked copy of their email correspondence.

----- Original Message -----
From: "West Star"
To: "Nick Loenen"
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 4:55 PM
Subject: Re: Update

Nick - while I appreciate your enthusiasm for STV - an enthusiasm I don't share by the way! - I really don't need to get 4 separate Fair Voting BC Updates in one day. Looks like your email list needs to be edited down for duplicates.

Happy 2005,

Bill Tieleman
West Star Communications

Read the Georgia Straight Thursdays for political commentary from Bill Tieleman

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nick Loenen"
To: "West Star"
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 5:21 PM
Subject: Re: Update

Hi Bill:

Thanks, I found some duplication and took care of it.

Maybe, some one thought you weren't getting the message.

Happy New Year to you, too.

Nick Loenen

----- Original Message -----
From: "West Star"
To: "Nick Loenen"
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 7:11 PM
Subject: Re: Update

Thanks Nick - I guess you folks who want more than one vote want more than one newsletter!

Happy 2005,

Bill Tieleman
West Star Communications

Read the Georgia Straight Thursdays for political commentary from Bill Tieleman

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nick Loenen"
To: "West Star"
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 7:41 PM
Subject: Re: Update

Bill: That's a good one, but actually STV gives no more than one vote to any voter. You can rank many times but have only one vote. That is what makes STV so easy.

Nick L.

----- Original Message -----
From: "West Star"
To: "Nick Loenen"
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 9:34 PM
Subject: Re: Update

Thanks Nick - didn't get that impression debating Bruce Hallsor tonight on CKNW!

Happy 2005,

Bill Tieleman
West Star Communications

Read the Georgia Straight Thursdays for political commentary from Bill Tieleman


I have yet to hear anyone come up with a good argument to why the current system is acceptable and a single argument that makes any sense for why STV should not be accepted.

All I am hearing in opposition to STV is strongly vested interests trying to confuse the public with half truths. Clearly the political power elites in BC do not want to see STV because it challenges their ability to hold power and make the rest of us dance to their tune

My understanding is that if your first preferrence vote is for the first loser you only get one vote. If your first preferrence is for anyone else you get at least two votes counted and probably more. To maximize your voting franchise you need a PhD in political science and game theory. I could be wrong - I've only spent about 12 hours reading up on the system but still can't fully comprehend how it works - another reason to vote against it.

Bernard, how about this for a reason- a member of the Citizens Assembly said, on camera, that the counting process with STV is,in effect, too complicated for Joe Voter to understand. ("We'll count the votes in the back room and let you know how it turned out later") It appears the CA wants me to buy a pig in a poke. No sale, here.

Why is a party a vested interest? Are Canadians so cynical that any organization of more than two people is suspect? A political party is very important, especially when the policies it represents are not the dominate ones in a society. People are already atomized as it is, why is it a positive to destroy one of the institutions that brings them together?

That being said, STV is not necessarily anti-party. Parties in Australian STV districts instruct their supporters how to vote to maximize their returns. As another commenter has said, you need a PhD to figure out how to use your vote wisely. You might not have a PhD, but you can bet a party will hire one who can figure it out and advise you how to vote.

There are just no arguments that stand up for STV. The Assembly recommended the wrong system. Vote against it.

We had STV before by individual constituency in the 1950's. It was when WAC Bennett won his first election and I am not disputing his governance, simply that when you look at how it broke down the Social Credit were everyones second choice and formed government. Representative it is not. You had candidates winning who had less first ballot votes than the Liberals/Conservatives or the CCF.

Mixed PR is a better choice. It allows citizens to pick a representative they can believe in and a party that best represents their values and only has two boxes to select. Simple and effective.

There are also two hard questions for STV to answer: (Confidence in the vote and wimping out)

Confidence: I think there is some question as to whether candiates will be able to scrutineer votes. Currently a cadidate can have representatives with basic skills ensure the vote is fair and accurate. It is what separates us from our US cousins, and we know how that turned out. I think we take for granted the confidence Canadians and BCers have in the numbers. We would like a more representative system, but we also want one we can trust.

Instead of ordinary citizens overseeing our democratic system we will now have to rely upon math PHD's, lawyers and microsoft to figure out who wins.

Wimping Out: The missing link is the discussion regarding a lack of faith in parties on behalf of the Citizens Assembly. You can't remove power from party's and be effective unless you are willing to change the system of governance. We have a parliamentary democracy that relys upon political party's to function. Don't wimp out! Recommend a new system of governance and then have an electoral system that works with it that is simple, fair and one that people can have confidence in.

The comments I've heard about STV both on this site, and elsewhere seem to focus around a few questions:

One - Is STV better or worse than the existing first-past-the-post system? I believe it is, and so do a majority of people I talk to.

Two - Is STV the best system available? No, it probably is not. Many people (inlcuding me) would prefer one version or another of proportional representation. However, preference for a third system is not sufficient to vote against STV. What we as citizen's can vote on is basically question #1. Our prefered third option (whatever that might be) is off the table for now.

three - Is STV too complicated? There is no doubt it requires more thought than the current model, but there are those who argue that encouraging voters to put a bit more thought into their vote is not such a bad thing. Besides, I suspect it will be a bit like riding a bike - if you try and explain to someone how to do it (and include all of Newton's laws) it will sound very complicated. Once you get on and try it, it's actually pretty easy.

Fourth - if we don't like this one, will we get another try? My concern is that if we vote this one down, we have killed democratic reform in this province for our voting lifetimes. If we endorse the process, and vote STV in, we can more easily tweak or change the system later.

I think I'm leaning toward voting for STV. Not because it's the best system out there, but because it's the best alternative open to me at the moment.

I have two or three objections to STV. In the first place, I am loathe to see the much larger ridings that will be put in place to create the multiple member seats over which the STV mechanics will be applied. If ridings are going to average 3 or 4 MLAs each, then we will have about twenty or more ridings, compared to 79 right now. Some of them will be quite larger, perhaps covering more territory than the federal ridings.

Second, there is simply no way we can have STV without bringing in voting machines. I am not sure Canadians are ready for voting machines, and good ones are going to cost a fair bit, though I don't have any actual figures.

Finally, I think its fundamentally unreliable to ask people for their second, third, fourth, fifth, ... preferences might be. The first choice is hard enough to make, ranking the remainders is going to involve many very weak, ill-formed judgements that probably have little meaning. Yes, people can plump, but if everyone does, ... there is no real STV, is there?

STV is a stupid. Period. We mine as well just starting voting like the U.S. does. Punch cards and

Political parties in BC tend towards the undemocratic. They do not have open, fair and transparent methods of selecting candidates. They are private organisations that are not open to the the public unless you agree to accept the rules of the leadership.

There are more aboriginal people in BC than all the political parties combined. Less than 2% of people in BC are members of a party. That tiny percentage has held onto political power for far to long. Of those members of political parties, over 60% are BC Liberals.

Political parties need to be reformed as well along with our voting system. Anyone that wants to be member of a party should be allowed to be a member. The nomination process in a riding should be an open and democratic process - everyone that lives in the riding should be allowed to vote in the nomination race of their choice.

BC has been ruled since 1937 by either a coalition of the centre right or the NDP on the left. In that time we have had a single independent get elected - Tom Uphill of Fernie.

Our current electoral system is fundamentally corrupt and rotten as it does not represent the public will at all. Most election in BC are decided by less than 50 000 voters - the 5000 or so people in the 10 ridings that are in close races in an election that could change their vote. Everyone else simply will not matter election day.

Is STV too complicated? It appears not as the folks in Australia and Ireland understand. I have also been spending time with as many people as possible to talk STV - everyone has understood the system within 10 minutes and once they understood the system the only ones that are not planning on voting yes as people with strong vest interests in having an electoral system that is unfair and takes power from the people and puts it in their hands.

STV is fair, democratic, representative, inclusive, proportional and positive. No other electoral system can say all those things, no other system is a good. The CA members simply went for the best system that they could find.

The deabte comes to two statements:

A vote for STV is a vote for democracy

A vote against is a vote against democracy.

I have mixed thoughts on the STV - worry about it's affect on the outlying regions - ie very large ridings up north vs the need for change.
Did any of you read Norman Spector's column in the globe today where he exposes Nick Loewen's possible real reason for wanting the STV.
Voting machines would be a one time puchase and they work quite well in Vancouver where there are lots of names on the ballot and there has been no trouble with the count.
Also as I understand it if I only vote for one person it is not a spoiled ballot.
I will vote for the STV on May 17, 2005 as a step towards a better political system and as a thank you to the non-partisian citizens who spent a year of their lives criss-crossing this great province hearing options to improve our democratic system.
I fully expect that this may become the real issue in the upcoming provincial election.

It's hard to fathom how Bernard can come up with the outrageous statement that "A vote for STV is a vote for democracy, a vote against is a vote against democracy"! The current electoral system of first past the post is used in more countries than any other and has served us well in Canada and our provinces, as well as in the United Kingdom.

I appreciate that some people want change but to denigrate our electoral system and those who support it in such a demogogic way is contemptible.

For those who want an answer to Bernard's earlier question of "what's wrong with STV?" I refer them to three of my Political Connections columns in the Georgia Straight.

You can find them at: or go to, click on News & Views, then Political Connections and then click the Archives button. Each one has STV or Single Transferable Vote in the headline.

Let's have a real debate on STV, not statements that those who disagree are against democracy.

STV is less democratic than first past the post, which is why many people in Ireland have been trying to get rid of it for years.

STV reinforces the role money would play in BC Politics. If someone wants to dilute our democracy, that's the way to do it instead of worrying about political parties.

Besides, what's so bad about political parties? If so many people didn't like political parties, why do they keep voting for them?

At least Bernard didn't call you a "BAD BRITISH COLUMBIAN!"
Maybe they are saving that for early May.

Bruce Hallsor is a complete joke. He talks about how the electoral process in this province is soo outdated and how changes need to be made. Gimme a break. I don't want to vote for other parties I have no interest in, nor do I care about. If STV passes, I will never vote again in this province. STV will be a real turnoff to some voters because it is confusing (can you the U.S.)

Hallsor: Lets talk about something that is really OUTDATED and needs drastic changes NOW: Adrienne Clark and the amount of taxpayer's money she wastes on CRAP that that does NOT benefit Canadians!! There is absolutely no need for a Governor General for Canada. It needs to be abolished, along with this British Monarchy crap.

No wonder Hallsor got pounded by David Anderson in
the 2000 election.

Dean, you praise the Westminster system in one breath, and damn one of its components (the monarch) in the other. Yet, you damn the American system (fixed election dates, elected head of state etc.) which is what we would have if we ditched Parliamentary tradition . What is it exactly that you want?

And, how does Clarkson waste taxpayers money? Spending Christmas with the troops is a waste of money? Inviting children to Rideau Hall is a waste of money? Being part of a cultural-trade mission to Russia requested by Foreign Affairs? Russia is flexing its muscles again on the international scene, and we need to be on good terms with them. Or is Canada too poor to have a legitimate foriegn policy?

How about comforting the widows of dead soliders? When Clarkson does that, is that a waste of taxpayers money?

When Canada goes on official missions to Asia (of no little importance for BC), we can say an Asian-Canadian is our head of state. Is that a waste of taxpayers money?

But you do make a very good point, STV is not a good fit with parliamentary tradition. Mixed Member PR seems to grow more naturally out of our political system.

"The current electoral system of first past the post is used in more countries than any other and has served us well in Canada and our provinces, as well as in the United Kingdom."

If this statement from the Georgia Straight's politcal writer is really true how come it's the NDP that complain the most about the not getting the number of seats in relation to the popular vote and even threatened to bring down the federal Liberals if they don't agree to some changes - The NDP had no problems with first past the post in 1996 when they lost the popular vote by 40,00o votes but won the seat count.
Isn't it the NDP that calls itself a grass roots - we listen to the little guy party - the citizen assembly is the closest thing the Canadian political scene has had in years that truly represented the little guy and the grassroots - I think we BC'ers owe them a lot of gratitude and a Yes vote on May 17, 2005

The two best political systems in the world for a non tiered government are Open PR-List as used in a number of Scandinavian countries and STV. The results for both are very similar, except STV leaves a little more opportunity to independents. (Even, if parties will always have an inherent value.)

The CA was non-partisan, so they leaned towards the system with more room for independents. They were given the mandate to choose whatever they fit best as long as they didn't mess with parliament, not we are given the decision to see if their choice is better than what we have now.

As for Bills comments, he did write three articles, which were entertaining. After reading them, I can now concur that STV will not cure cancer nor snakebite, it will not get politicians out of politics, and yes, I was wrong, they also use STV in North Ireland, not just the Republic of Ireland.

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