Not enough negativity

"The reluctance to really go negative on (the first past the post system) was a fatal error." That's the opinion of British Columbians for BC-STV volunteer James Douglas Roy, who has distributed a 17-page report analyzing why electoral reform failed at the ballot box. "Instead of directly highlighting and attacking the absurdities of the current system, we seemed to take it for granted that most British Columbians know what is wrong with FPTP. Well, they don't. And the referendum results reflected that," wrote Mr. Roy. "Instead, we explained how the transfer of surplus votes in the second round of counting would proceed under BC-STV."

But that wasn't the only reason the yes side lost. According to Mr. Roy, the organization and structure of the campaign executive "was one of the most significant problems of the campaign. This was definitely a case of 'too many cooks spoil the soup.' I think it would have worked far better to have a smaller campaign executive with more limited responsibilities...And after the professional campaign staff had been appointed, the campaign executive should have backed off and let the professionals do their job."

Other problems referenced by Mr. Roy included the yes side's signage, its Website and the "horrendous" phone system and "obsolete" computers at its central office. The following is a complete copy of his analysis.

***

James Douglas Roy

British Columbians for BC-STV
Campaign Executive, Regional Organizers and Tireless Volunteers

Re: Lessons Learned and Future Strategies

May 19, 2009

Dear Supporters of Electoral Reform,

We are all deeply disappointed with the results of Tuesday's referendum on electoral reform.

Receiving less than 40% of the vote is always disheartening and we have every right to be concerned and worried about the future of electoral reform in British Columbia and Canada.

But we must redouble our efforts and press forward with a clear reform agenda. However, this cannot be done without a period of introspection and a thorough analysis of both the strategies and tactics that were successful and those that failed.

I would like to provide my thoughts and observations in this regard as someone who worked on both levels of the campaign (I volunteered for the Capital Region chapter and then later worked for the central campaign office in Vancouver).

This is not a specific critique of any specific individual, only my contribution to the debate that is already occurring within the campaign as to how we can improve our efforts to bring electoral reform to British Columbia. All observations and opinions are mine and mine alone. I feel it is necessary to speak the truth as I see it in order to spark a genuine debate within the electoral reform movement of British Columbia as to what direction we must now take.

I hope others will also provide their respective opinions so we can put together a comprehensive strategy for future campaigns and a compilation of mistakes from this campaign to correct for next time. We cannot merely conclude the NO side played unfairly and tricked everyone. We must account for our own failings and resolve to change.

I would like to make one critical point to all volunteers in this campaign: it is critical that we maintain this incredible network of supporters in order to build on it in the future. We now have a widespread group of dedicated supporters in all regions of this province committed to electoral reform. It is also crucial that we reach out to those who opposed STV yet passionately want electoral reform.

Therefore, I would urge each and every one of you to do as I will and formally join Fairvoting BC, a group dedicated to electoral reform and a fairer voting system for all British Columbians.

If you like the current board of directors, then vote for them in the next election, if you want change, vote for a new board of directors, and if you want to be that change, run as a candidate for the board of directors.

Either way, please join Fairvoting BC!

I will structure my analysis around three broad themes:

1. What went right;
2. What went wrong; and,
3. Strategies for future campaigns.

1. WHAT WENT RIGHT:

There are many tactics that worked incredibly well in this campaign and should be replicated in future campaigns.

They are:

a. The Campaign Volunteers and Regional Organizers

The incredible groups of volunteers from across the province were simply amazing. Having so many people so dedicated to electoral reform and being on the ground at the local level was incredible and astounding.

And while I have some concerns as to the specific organization and structure of these local groups, on the whole they worked very well. Most people got a lawn sign when they wanted one, there was always a speaker when requested, and there was always a strong local presence of dedicated people explaining BC-STV to their friends, neighbours and co-workers.

The only significant problems that occurred were due primarily to a lack of coordination out of the central campaign office. I have heard far too many stories from local volunteers about the head office being indifferent, incompetent, or negligent in addressing volunteers' concerns.

b. Tony Roy (no relation)

Tony, the Deputy Campaign Manager was an excellent fit and performed incredibly well. He brought by far the most professional campaign experience (as director of the federal Liberal campaigns in BC in 2006 and 2008) to our campaign and my only concern is he should have been brought on much earlier and been given many more responsibilities. If you are not happy with 39% of the vote, you should at least take solace that it would likely have been significantly lower had Tony not been on board.

My only concern with respect to Tony is that he was put on too short a leash. A man with his seasoned professional campaign experience should not have to report to a group of people with either little, or no campaign experience. He should have been given far more independent authority to run this campaign and formulate campaign strategy.

c. The Campaign Staff

The staff at the central campaign office worked very hard and was very dedicated. They, like the volunteers, should be congratulated on all their hard work.

2. WHAT WENT WRONG:

There are many tactics that failed in this campaign and many mistakes were made.

While this may not have been the year for electoral reform, we certainly could have done far better than 39% of the popular vote.

It is critical that we acknowledge these mistakes and learn lessons from them.

These include:

a. The Late Start to the Campaign

We got started far, far too late. It is simply incomprehensible to me why we waited so long to get going.

We should have had an office up and running at least by January.

We should have had all the professional campaign staff brought in at that point, and we should have already been coordinating with the regional organizers and volunteers. We should have also had a complete and comprehensive website up and running at that time and we should have been much further ahead with our signs and printed materials.

There are so many key decisions that could have been made much earlier, but simply weren't. And as a result, we had a great many angry volunteers from across the province who were waiting to get started but were receiving little direction from the campaign office.

The coordination of local volunteers was very poor, and I believe it stemmed from the late start of the central campaign office. The volunteers were ready to go long before the campaign was. We actually lost volunteers (especially early in the campaign) because of their frustration and anger with the central campaign office.

We could have started with a general "What's Wrong with the Current System?" information campaign and then later transformed into a "BC-STV Will Solve These Problems" campaign when the writ was dropped.

b. The Campaign Office

The actual central campaign office had some serious shortcomings. The phone system was simply horrendous. There was no central switchboard (and no dedicated position for answering all incoming calls) and the sole ability to "park" phone calls - seriously, what is that even? -caused significant problems. The computers were also basically obsolete and far too slow to accomplish the work necessary for the campaign.

A better and more technologically advanced office would have been far better.

c. The Organization and Structure of the Campaign Executive

I believe this was one of the most significant problems of the campaign. This was definitely a case of "too many cooks spoil the soup."

I think it would have worked far better to have a smaller campaign executive with more limited responsibilities. Instead of a large campaign executive spread out over a wide area, there should have been two campaign co-chairs appointed who worked out of the central campaign office or close by. These campaign co-chairs could have been appointed from the Fairvoting BC executive as a whole together with the campaign managers and key central office staff.

At such time, there should also have been clear lines of authority and responsibility delineated so everyone knew what they were responsible for and to whom they were responsible. Tragically, the areas of responsibility and hierarchical campaign structure were not clearly defined until about three weeks before Election Day. That is patently unacceptable for a major province-wide campaign.

And after the professional campaign staff had been appointed, the campaign executive should have backed off and let the professionals do their job. I was amazed at how many critical decisions had to be made and approved by committee. This not only dramatically hindered efficiency; it also led to unnecessary and costly delays.

d. Not Relentlessly Attacking the Current System

Instead of directly highlighting and attacking the absurdities of the current system, we seemed to take it for granted that most British Columbians know what is wrong with FPTP. Well, they don't. And the referendum results reflected that.

Again, as I have stated on numerous occasions, the vast majority of British Columbians do not know what is wrong with the current electoral system. While they may have problems with the political system, they do not always know how such problems are directly caused by the electoral system. We simply must do a better job of detailing how a bad political system springs forth from a bad electoral system.

As I have argued numerous times, go to the local coffee shop or pub and ask your fellow British Columbians questions about the current FPTP electoral system. You will undoubtedly find many people who do not know that election results are almost always not proportional, that a majority government almost always fails to get a majority of the popular vote, and that many local MLAs often get "elected" with far less than a majority of the local popular vote.

We should have more thoroughly explained the mechanics of FPTP and how it directly leads to many of the problems that British Columbians have with politics in this province. Problems such as the number of wasted votes, terrible voter turnout, an intensely polarized political culture, vote-splitting, having to "hold your nose" and vote strategically, iron-clad party discipline, the "elected dictatorship" and how the current electoral system dramatically overemphasizes the true degree of popular support for Quebec separatism, should have been aggressively put forward, especially at the beginning.

Instead, we explained how the transfer of surplus votes in the second round of counting would proceed under BC-STV.

e. Not Adequately Explaining BC-STV

Ironically, while we didn't attack FPTP near enough, we also failed to explain the mechanics of BC-STV as thoroughly as many people wanted. In fact, we seemed to operate from the premise that people wouldn't want to know too much about BC-STV, the proportionality of results and fairness of it would win them over.

Well, many people did want to know exactly how it worked and they felt we were hiding something by not explaining it as thoroughly as they would have wanted.

There should have been simple flow charts and animations on the website detailing how BC-STV would work and how it leads to proportional election results and increased voter choice. For the people that did want to know more about how BC-STV would work, this information was either not available or difficult to find.

As I was the primary person who responded to telephone and email enquiries about BC-STV, I simply cannot stress enough how many people told me that the proposed system was not adequately explained in print or on the website and how they wished the website or printed materials could explain BC-STV as simply as I had.

f. The Website

I am attempting to be as kind as I can here, but the website was an unmitigated disaster.

I hold no single person specifically responsible for this - which was the problem, as there were far too many people responsible for what did - or in many cases, did not - go onto the website.

Nonetheless, there were so many problems with the website it is difficult to put them all to paper.

Here are some:

"¢ It should have been put together and completed much earlier, instead of a dramatic revision of the site about 40 days before Election Day. It is simply astounding that we were still thoroughly revising the "Learn More" page one week before Election Day!

"¢ There should have been a single person responsible for all technical and graphical aspects of the website; and there should have been a single person responsible for all writing and information put on the website - it should not have been run by committee. This dramatically delayed the necessary improvements from being completed and prevented even minor revisions unless they were agreed upon by a large group of people;

"¢ The failings of FPTP (and how BC-STV would fix those faults) should have been placed much more prominently on the main page as opposed to being buried in the "Learn More" page. The website was likely the cheapest communication medium we had and it is inconceivable why we did not have, front and centre the five main complaints of BC politics, how the defects of FPTP cause these problems, and the five ways BC-STV would improve BC politics;

"¢ The MYTHS and FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS section was in almost constant disarray. It was buried too far from the main page to be of any practical use, it was not clear, it did not cover enough ground, it failed to aggressively challenge the assertions of the NO side, and it was only partially corrected a mere one week before the election;

"¢ We should have clearly showed how BC-STV would be better for each of the following:

o BC Liberals;
o New Democrats;
o Independents;
o Women;
o Northerners;
o Urban residents;
o Minorities; and,
o Rural voters.

"¢ We also should have illustrated how BC-STV was better for each of the three basic principles people inherently take into account when they vote: the local representative, the next premier, and the political party. We also should have highlighted - again, in a prominent place on the website, how BC-STV would allow voters to "filter out" good candidates from political parties they did not like but knew they would get some seats in their districts;

"¢ We should have developed many more animations, videos, and flash graphics detailing the problems of FPTP and how BC-STV would work.

We could have had clear and easy to understand illustrations and step-by-step presentations making it so simple for people to understand the failings of the current system and the benefits of BC-STV. I think it was unrealistic to fall back on the Citizens' Assembly animations from five years ago, especially the one where the South Asian and Chinese candidates are eliminated and the three white candidates get elected; wow!

g. Campaign Signage

As we wanted to show how are campaign was "above politics" and we were not a political party, it would have made sense for our signs to stand out and look much different than those of the political parties.

This involved ensuring that we did not use the three colours of the main political parties: orange, blue and green.

And what colours were on our signs?

Orange and blue.

They looked very similar to NDP signs, especially at a distance and at low light. That certainly did not help us appeal to BC Liberals.

Why couldn't we have had red signs? Or purple? Or gold - like that on the BC Flag?

It is just so frustrating that we made such a prominent error on something that seems such a basic issue of common sense to many people. What is extremely puzzling is that the same NDP sign scheme was also used in the 2008 autumn by-elections, so we knew what their general election sign colour scheme would be!

Why then, did we deliberately choose signs that looked so similar? It just appears so stunningly incompetent not to ensure our signs were clearly distinctive.

h. The Reluctance to Adapt to New Campaign Realities

Instead of acknowledging that this referendum campaign would be very different and we would be facing an opposition that would be well-funded, better-organized and more dedicated than they were four years ago, and retooling our strategy to incorporate this new reality - we appeared to run our campaign using very similar themes to our 2005 attempt, including the same speakers and the same primary message. We just had more money and more volunteers this time.

As recently as three weeks ago, I was hearing people say, "we just need thirty thousand more votes." Well technically yes, but I think we took it as a given that we automatically would start with 58% popular support and that the NO side would just let us have this one. I think that is why we did not adopt a different strategy for this campaign and why the same basic people (save for Tony Roy) largely ran both campaigns: because we were only focusing on thirty thousand voters, and not three million.

As we now know, that was not the case. We should have started by assuming we had zero support and then fought like hell to get it up to 60%. Instead, we appeared to largely coast (especially at first) on the momentum from a referendum result from four years ago and from a citizens' assembly from five years ago! People's political memories just aren't that long.

As I stated before, the reluctance to really go negative on FPTP was a fatal error. And it reflected a belief that if we only worked a little bit harder than in 2005, we could use the same strategy (again, premised on the fundamentally incorrect belief that everyone knows exactly how bad the current system is and does not need much prodding to change it) and easily get to 60%.

The reluctance to use the talents of new speakers was also a serious concern. Stuart Parker is an amazing public speaker, yet he was not used near to the degree he should have been. So many people told me on the phone that I explained the system so well I should be on the radio selling BC-STV, and I was put on Vancouver co-op radio - together with only minor party candidates! I offered to do radio interviews on more prominent stations - and on stations in the Interior - and I was continually rebuffed.

There were countless other examples of people not being utilized to their full potential while people from the 2005 campaign were being overextended. Again, this seemed to stem from the belief that we did not need a radical overhaul of the 2005 strategy in order to win.

Also, as someone who was not involved in the 2005 campaign, I can personally relay how difficult it was to be taken seriously in this campaign unless one was either on the Citizens' Assembly or involved in the 2005 campaign.

i. An Arm of the Green Party and small Parties

For better or for worse (and I think it was for worse) we seemed unable to shake the public belief that we were merely an arm of the Green Party and other small parties who wanted to change the electoral system only because the current system was keeping them down.

We should have done a better job showing how (in many elections and in many regions) the current system has been devastating to the two major political parties, the BC Liberals and the NDP.

For instance, both major parties have had far more wasted votes in every election than the Greens ever have. However, this information was only put out in news releases and was not put on the website in any sort of interactive map format, as it should have been.

In the head office in Vancouver, I personally overheard volunteers telling people over the phone that we should vote in BC-STV so the Marijuana Party would win seats! One person told a caller it would finally enable communists to get elected! Communists! Are we serious?

We have to do a far better job appealing to the supporters of major parties next time.

Especially since the Green vote is now so low (it has consecutively fallen in each of the past three elections) people have far less sympathy for the Greens not having any seats.

It is far different for a party getting 8% of the vote and receiving no seats as opposed to when a party gets over 12% (as the Greens did in 2001) and receiving no seats. It appears that the general public seems to think 10% of the vote is a psychological threshold a party must reach in order for them to feel that party is entitled to some MLAs.

And like it or not, the Greens will continue to largely be seen as a fringe party - with results like this, they may not even get into the debate next time - and we simply must do a better job of distancing ourselves from minor parties, including the Greens.

j. The Threshold

We should have been shouting, screaming about the anti-democratic farce that was the "60-60" threshold.

I think it was a huge error to even acknowledge the threshold as legitimate.

We should have been arguing that the political establishment was doing everything it could to rig the results in its favour and constantly stating the grotesque fact that it is easier to break up the country in a referendum than it is to change the way politicians get elected!

We could have questioned the candidates and leaders as to why they thought the way they get elected should have a greater degree of insulation from the democratic will of the people than the national unity of Canada.

Of all the campaign's strategic errors, I think this was one of the worst. We could have really played the "people versus the politicians" angle but we did not. We played by the unfair, blatantly self-serving and illegitimate rules set down by the same political establishment that benefits from the current electoral system.

WHY?

3. STRATEGIES FOR FUTURE CAMPAIGNS:

Where do we go from here?

I have some suggestions:

1. BC-STV may be dead (at least for now) but electoral reform is not.

The absolutely pathetic degree of voter turnout illustrates the magnitude of anger and apathy about the current political system in British Columbia.

If we could transfer and project that anger onto the current voting system, we will have electoral reform. We must find a way to link people's opinions of the political system to the mechanics of FPTP.

2. We must start electoral reform in smaller jurisdictions and with less dramatic changes.

What we must do now is start at a smaller scale and start with incremental changes.

A good place to start would be at the local level. Municipal, school board and regional district elections may prove to be a fertile breeding ground for STV in British Columbia.

For example, STV would be perfect for Vancouver City Council (instead of the ridiculous and counterproductive eternal debate between a disproportional and unrepresentative at-large system and a disproportional and largely uncompetitive ward system).

STV should also be seriously considered as a strategy at the municipal level in other large cities such as Victoria, Richmond, Burnaby and Surrey. It could also be promoted in small communities where committed supporters live. We should talk to mayors and councillors that endorsed BC-STV about implementing it in their municipal elections. I would be happy to be a part of that effort.

We could also work to convince public and private societies to switch to STV for elections. For example, student societies, corporate boards of directors, chambers of commerce, interest groups, unions and other professional affiliations. We could also promote STV for elections to the executive offices of political parties. Anything to help get more British Columbians used to proportional elections and a ranked-choice ballot would be a positive development for future debates on electoral reform. We could also (like we did with Vision Vancouver's mayoral nomination election) volunteer to administer the election and count the ballots for these groups.

As for provincial general elections, we have learned people want their one MLA. They want a simple counting process. And they want their current number of MLAs.

Therefore, I believe our first step should be to promote instant runoff voting or "choice voting" as the Americans call it, "preference voting" to the Australians or the "alternative vote" to the British. It is basically STV in single-member districts. The ballot would contain a list of candidates (one per political party and independents - just as at present) but instead of putting a single "X" next to a single candidate, a voter is permitted to rank their choices (as few or as many as they wish) in 1, 2, 3, etc. order. If a candidate fails to receive at least 50% plus one of all votes cast, the candidate receiving the least first choice votes is eliminated and his or her second choices are redistributed to remaining candidates. This process continues until a single candidate receives at least 50% plus one of all valid votes cast.

It does not provide proportional election results, and it still leads to a great number of people that are do not have a local MLA of their political persuasion representing them. But it does at least end vote splitting and the election of candidates with less than 50% of the local popular vote. It is simple to use and simple to count, and it is used in more jurisdictions and organizations than STV so we could sell it easier. Moreover, it does have a history in British Columbia, being used in the 1952 and 1953 general elections. Many political parties and private organizations also use it for their elections.

While it is not perfect, it is "more perfect" than what we have and should be seriously considered as a first step. It could also be proposed for mayoral elections in those same communities that we propose STV for council elections.

And perhaps it is time to take a second look at MMP.

While I was personally dismayed at how many MMP supporters campaigned passionately for FPTP (I was at a debate where the two NO speakers were MMP supporters!), we must ensure we never do that to them if MMP is ever seriously considered. And with open regional lists and even a ranked-choice ballot for constituency MLAs, MMP could work reasonably well in British Columbia.

There is concrete evidence from around the world that, once a jurisdiction abandons FPTP, it almost never goes back. Therefore, we must focus on getting rid of FPTP and then lobby for our preferred electoral system.

We are all electoral reformers for a reason: each and every one of us thinks the current electoral system is the worst system in the world and wants it replaced. Let's focus on that instead of arguing whether AV or STV or MMP or List-PR is best. Let's instead start by abolishing the system that is clearly the worst.

Basically, the electoral reform movement must come to a broad and genuine consensus as to what system we favour and the best steps to get us there. We can no longer be fighting amongst ourselves, as that is exactly what the limited yet powerful supporters of the current system want us to do. Recall the NO ads with the message "if you want a electoral reform, reject BC-STV and then try for a better system." Honest? No. Effective? Yes! We must never give supporters of the current system the opportunity to play us against each other again.

3. We must determine why we lost.

We need to put a poll in the field in order to analyze what aspects of BC-STV voters were most concerned about. This will enable us to refine our strategy for future campaigns.

Basically, we need to ask people why they voted against BC-STV, what they like (and dislike) about the current system and adjust our strategy accordingly.

4. We should take advantage of the Initiative procedure to keep electoral reform in the public eye.

British Columbia's initiative process is very difficult. It requires an onerous amount of signatures in a great number of electoral districts. But even if it fails, it does create publicity (as illustrated by the Greens 2002 attempted initiative to put a mixed-member proportional electoral system to a referendum.

In order to maximize both our publicity and the number of signatures we could receive, we should propose in our initiative not merely a new procedure to achieve electoral reform, but a comprehensive package of reforms to enhance the democratic process in British Columbia. This is outlined below.

5. We should link electoral reform to other issues that have more widespread popular support and basic familiarity.

Electoral reform is more than just a different voting system.

It is part and parcel of an effort to renew democracy in British Columbia and change the political culture of this province for the better. As such, we should draft a broad reform package, debate it within our movement, and put it into the public sphere.

The initiative process would be an ideal means to get this comprehensive reform agenda into the public realm. And while it is incredibly difficult for an initiative to be enacted, we will generate publicity whether or not it succeeds.

As such, Fairvoting BC should giver serious consideration to changing its name to British Columbians for Democratic Change (or some similar iteration) and revise its mandate to seek not only a change to the voting system, but wide-reaching reforms to a host of political institutions and democratic processes in British Columbia.

This could also serve to increase our support and put wide-ranging reforms on the public agenda in a way they have not been since the early 1990s.

The proposals in this package should include:

1. Increasing voter turnout by:

a. Giving serious consideration to lowering the voting age to 16; and,

b. Implementing two days of weekend voting for general elections instead of a single general voting day on a weekday.

The absolutely pathetic voter turnout in this election is something we can really use to our advantage in pressing for electoral and political reform. Many people are angry that the turnout was so low, and they will be looking at ways to improve turnout for the next election.

2. Conducting a referendum on Senate reform.

Specifically;

a. Whether British Columbia should elect its contingent of Senators to the Senate of Canada; and,

And, should the voters agree to elect British Columbia's Senators,

b. What type of electoral system should be utilized for these elections;

i. The Alberta model;

ii. The STV model endorsed by the federal government in its proposed legislation for Senate elections; or,

iii. Another "made in BC" model.

3. Drafting legislation (the Citizens' Assembly Act) to implement the Citizens' Assembly model as a permanent means to examine important public policy issues, propose recommendations, and put those proposals to British Columbians for ratification in a referendum.

4. Amending the Referendum Act and the Constitution Act to entrench the simple majority threshold for ratification of any and all referenda in British Columbia. We must ensure that this 60-60 threshold is never legitimized and that all referenda in British Columbia (save those concerning secession, where the Supreme Court's ruling comes into play) require a threshold no greater than 50% plus one of all valid votes cast.

5. Improving the electoral boundaries commission process by amending the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act to increase the number of commissioners in order to provide representation on the commission from all regions of the province (for example, the last commission was composed of three members: one from Victoria, one from Vancouver, and one from Penticton).

6. Conducting a referendum on the creation of a bicameral British Columbia Legislature, to be composed of the existing Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council to improve representation from the geographic, historical, and generally recognized regions of the province (I have also attached a proposal I wrote on this topic last year).

The main concern about BC-STV outside of the Lower Mainland was the large electoral districts. Rural British Columbians already worry about their views being inadequately represented in Victoria and the creation of a second legislative chamber based on regional representation could go a long way towards alleviating these fears.

7. Amending the Recall and Initiative Act to make it easier for British Columbians to get initiatives on the ballot or to recall local MLAs by reducing the number of signatures required to a more reasonable amount.

8. Establishing a "civics" course as a core part of the curriculum for all students in British Columbia public schools from grades 10 to 12.

Key subjects in this class would include:

a. British Columbia (and Canadian) politics and government;

b. Elections and voting;

c. Canada's and British Columbia's constitutional monarchy;

d. The legislative process;

e. The parliamentary system of government; and,

f. The rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

9. Reforming British Columbia's antiquated campaign finance laws.

Specifically:

a. Completely ban ALL union and corporate contributions so that only an individual person (registered to vote in British Columbia) can make a contribution to a political party, constituency association, general election or by-election candidate, prospective political party leadership candidate(s) and prospective candidate(s) for local electoral district political party nomination;

b. Restrict individual donations to political parties, constituency associations party leadership candidates for local electoral district political party nominations to the same level as the federal limits;

c. Eliminate all provincial tax credits for political donations (why should all of the taxpayers pay a few people - and usually, wealthy people - to donate to a political party?); and,

d. Establish public financing of political parties (using the money saved by eliminating the tax credits) using a similar formula as the federal scheme (roughly $2 per vote to the party per year).

This would provide an incentive for political parties to advocate policies that are genuinely popular with voters and would help reduce the degree to which special interests (unions in the case of the NDP and corporations in the case of the BC Liberals) dominate the political debate in this province by reducing their ability to finance political parties and increasing (through public financing) the financial incentive of appealing to the broadest possible number of voters. Governments (of each political stripe) would therefore be far less likely to implement policies that only benefit their financial benefactors, because these groups would have a severely limited ability to ability to finance political campaigns.

10. Improving the intra-party democracy of provincial political parties by enacting legislation designed to:

a. Regulate the procedures for electing the Leader of any provincial political party that runs a number of candidates that equals or exceeds a majority of the total number of MLAs in the Legislative Assembly.

Namely;

i. Establishing the "one vote, one value" principle for leadership elections so that all party members can vote for the leader;

ii. Providing for the availability of mail-in ballots;

iii. Providing citizenship, age and residency qualifications one must meet in order to vote in a party leadership election;

iv. Setting a time requirement as to how long a person must have been a member of a political party before he or she can vote in a party leadership campaign (to eliminate "instant Liberals" and "instant New Democrats" who join the party just before the leadership election;

v. Implementing a majoritarian electoral system (likely a ranked-choice instant runoff ballot) to ensure the elected party leader has at least 50% plus one support of the party members;

vi. Providing Elections BC with the ultimate authority (and not a committee or officer of the political party) to supervise and regulate leadership campaigns and administer leadership elections - including counting the ballots announcing the results, conducting re-counts, adjudicating appeals, and regulating the financial disclosure process.

b. Regulate the procedures for selecting the local candidate for any provincial political party that runs a number of candidates that equals or exceeds a majority of the total number of MLAs in the Legislative Assembly.

Namely;

i. Establishing the "one vote, one value" principle for local candidate nomination elections so that all party members in the electoral district can vote for the local party candidate;

ii. Providing for the availability of mail-in ballots;

iii. Providing citizenship, age and residency qualifications one must meet in order to vote in a party candidate nomination election;

iv. Preventing political parties from protecting incumbent MLAs from a party nomination challenge in their district (as frequently occurs at present);

v. Banning the practice of the Leader (or central party office) refusing to hold a nomination election or merely appointing the local candidate;

This would ensure that there must always be a district-wide election between prospective candidates seeking the nomination of that political party and only party members in that district shall determine who will be the candidate from that district.

vi. Setting a time requirement as to how long a person must have been a member of a political party and resident in the local electoral district before he or she can vote in a candidate nomination election;

vii. Implementing a majoritarian electoral system (likely a ranked-choice instant runoff ballot) to ensure the elected local candidate has at least 50% plus one support of the local party members;

viii. Providing Elections BC with the ultimate authority (and not a committee or officer of the political party) to supervise and regulate local candidate nomination campaigns and administer candidate nomination elections - including counting the ballots, announcing the results, conducting re-counts, adjudicating appeals, and regulating the financial disclosure process.

11. Banning "party-hopping" and "floor-crossing" to provide that a sitting MLA can only resign from the party caucus to sit as an independent.

No sitting MLA would be allowed to leave caucus and join another party caucus without first resigning his or her seat and running in a by-election.

A sitting MLA who resigns from a party caucus to sit as an independent would also be forbidden from being appointed to the Executive Council (the cabinet) without also resigning his or her seat and running in a by-election.

12. Providing that all ballots in all provincial general elections (and by-elections), as well as regional, school board and municipal elections shall have, at the bottom of the ballot following the list of candidates, a "NONE OF THE ABOVE" option so voters can register their displeasure at the lack of choices without having to spoil their ballots or stay home.

13. Drafting proposals (possibly through a new citizens' assembly) to reform the British Columbia criminal justice system and to put investigate the following policy issues, make proposals and put these proposals to the public (for ratification through a referendum):

a. ELECTING, instead of appointing, judges to the Provincial Court of British Columbia;

b. Establishing a provincial police force;

c. Electing Justices of the Peace;

d. Any other criminal justice reforms that are within the responsibility of the Legislature of British Columbia (criminal law and criminal trial procedure can only be amended by Parliament; but civil law and procedure and general policing issues can be amended by the province).

14. Amending the Remuneration and Pensions Act to ban any increase in MLA's pay and pension benefits beyond the annual increase in the cost of living unless ratified by the voters through a referendum.

6. We must minimize the influence of (and emphasis upon) smaller political parties when promoting electoral reform.

We simply must do a better job of selling electoral reform to the major parties and should distance ourselves from the Greens and other fringe parties.

I think it would be wise to refocus our efforts on being above or "beyond" partisan politics and ideology and convey our multi-partisan (and non-partisan) efforts to lobby for democratic reform in British Columbia.

2 Comments

My goodness. Talk about a guy "drinking too much of his own Kool-Aid". This guy needs to get a grip. Not only is STV dead, so is electoral reform. The only reason we got to this point is because the Premier was still sore from loosing in '96 after garnering the popular vote. Frankly he opened up the Citizen's Assembly because of it. And the Citizen's Assembly came back with something ridiculous (which is supported by the results of the referendum, and I emphasize "dumb") because they didn't want to come back with a "status quo".

FPTP works much to the chagrin of minorities and fringe parties that would like to see their minority interests hold the business of the state for ransom by creating gridlock and quagmire. Government decisions and policy is slow enough without having to slow it up even further with something as ridiculous as this.

Now that this experiment is finally over, let's get back to work with a system that has made this Province and this Country the finest in the world.

Very well written and thoughtful document. Reading this pleased me to no end! Sharp, even handed, to the point and targeted - SO REFRESHING!

I hope he isn't punished too badly for it or for too long.

Death by committee is alive and well I see. So sad, and so darkly ironic.

I was nodding my head and agreeing with everything until this point: 5. We should link electoral reform to other issues that have more widespread popular support and basic familiarity.

That and everything after it diluted the core messages - messages which needed to be made. A HUGE concerted effort will be required to get electoral reform passed in this province - mudding the waters by adding in a wish list is a serious error. I can see how it's tempting to just clean up all the crap in one fell swoop, but for every agenda item added onto the electoral reform topic it will be 10 times harder to get the key issue resolved, agreed upon, and passed. STICK TO THE POINT.

Get one victory - the most important victory first, THEN start going after the other problems. Once the people of BC feel emboldened by actually being able to affect and improve democracy in this province they will be a force to be reckoned with and the other items will fall into place like dominoes.

Again - the person that wrote this is a very smart, and very brave person. I hope he continues on and doesn't lose the fire in his belly.

To the people who sat on those myriad committees, and to those that perpetrated the old boy (you weren't here as long as we were) mentality - shame on you. You did a huge disservice to the people of this province and the cause you were tasked with promoting. I challenge each and every one of them to support the suggestions put forth in this document and not sabotage it or thwart the efforts of reform because their noses are out of joint from being called out for their behaviours.

I for one would love to know how the campaign executive were appointed. Problems this systemic typically start at the top.

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