Sunday, September 18, 2005

Does Another Referendum on BC-STV in 2008 Indicate Belief in "People Infallibility"? Nope, Just Sound Politics

Give Premier Gordon Campbell high marks for sound political judgement on his decision
to have another referendum on BC-STV to coincide with the 2008 municipal elections.
Provided that both sides of this debate are afforded adequate resources to put their cases forward, it should result in a more informed vote. By not tampering with the decision of the Assembly, he has avoided accusations of conflict-of-interest. Backbench and Opposition MLAs will be relieved of the unpleasant task of publicly voting against a proposal that most of their constituents have already endorsed (or else voting for something that could put them out of a job). And he has kept alive his own potential place in history as a pioneer of populist democratic reform.

Note that these merits are primarily political and procedural, not substantive. For those of us who voted "yes" in May 2005 in the hope of furthering the general cause of electoral reform rather than BC-STV as such, we are faced with the sobering reality that BC-STV is the only game in town. I have already argued in two previous columns that BC-STV is more proportional than we really need, that it is more radical than is really necessary, etc. And if, after a section of the the electorate balks at BC-STV's overly large ridings and long ballots, and the proposal once again gets 50-58% of the vote (just falling short of the 60% threshold required for ratification), remember "I told you so".

Philosophically, I am certain that a more modest electoral reform can deliver more consensual and representative government without perpetual factionalism, log-rolling, and shifting coalition bargaining of the sort we have witnessed recently at the federal level. Dr. Spector has a point! I am also convinced that a certain degree of privileging of geographically concentrated
preferences is also defensible, although not to the degree that our present system does. A higher threshold than pure proportionality forces supporters of fringe parties and marginal preferences to bring their arguments to the common forum and to see how they fare in debate about a range of issues.

If for example, a party such as the Green Party or the Marijuana Party cannot attain a 20% threshold of the vote in any of the 5 or 6 electoral districts envisaged by "MMP lite", that says something about its ability to appeal to the general interest. And should such a party, elected in a more proportional system, hold disproportional influence in a minority parliament? If such a party is really capable of appealing to both the right and the left, as Ms. Carr says, and is not tarnished by having been in power, then it ought to be able to elect some MLAs in two-and three-member STV districts envisaged by "STV-lite".

Some thoughtful, progressive advocates of "PR" electoral reform, such as Dr. Alex Michalos of the University of Northern British Columbia, will be voting"no" in the next referendum on BC-STV. As for yours truly, it will be a difficult choice, and one that I will probably take two years to make.


RSSMagic said...
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P. said...

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