British Columbia’s election

Before I begin my workday I thought I’d pound out some reactions to last night’s election and referendum in British Columbia. A quick disclaimer: I’m in Ontario and didn’t follow the campaigns as closely as I could have. If you’re in B.C. and I’m missing an important detail or nuance, please let me know.

The main show

Overall I’m disappointed by the results, so I’ll begin by finding something positive to cling to. The reelection of Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government can at least be seen in part as a vindication of their carbon tax policy. The B.C. carbon tax is far from perfect in implementation, but it is North America’s first and it has now been ratified (somewhat) by the electorate. That’s encouraging for other politicians who seek to do the right thing even when it may not seem popular at first.

The result is also, in part, a repudiation of the NDP’s attempt to turn the carbon tax into a negative wedge. Going against the advice of every major environmentalist and economist in favour of attempting to grab a few extra votes was a mistake. The federal NDP, who have also too often flirted with populism at the expense of principal, would be wise to take note.

The side show

The Green Party of B.C. did poorly last night. 8.1% and no close ridings to speak of is the worst result since 1996 and continues a trend of negative momentum that began after 2001. This result isn’t surprising, IMO, given the party’s messaging. In a final pitch to voters printed on the front page of yesterday’s Metro newspaper (my employer) in Vancouver, Green leader Jane Sterk asked for support “so our grandchildren’s grandchildren also have the opportunity to live a good life.” This argument is both politically foolish (voters do not and will not make decisions based on vague predictions of what will happen long after they’re dead) and unrealistically optimistic (we are already experiencing the results of poor economic and environmental policy, and will continue to witness the worst fallout in this generation and the next).

The no show

The biggest disappointment of the night was the defeat of the Single Transferable Vote proposal. It’s hard to know what to say about that. After MMP was defeated in Ontario I wrote that I wouldn’t comment until I stopped swearing and throwing things. I never did. I didn’t want to sound like a sore loser. Ultimately, I’ve come to realize there’s no escaping the truth: I did lose, and I am sore.

The citizens and experts who studied STV most closely supported it. The campaign that opposed STV had no grassroots support by its own admission1, and instead depended on government funding to spread misinformation and spin. In a recent election to the south, an inspiring political figure successfully argued that voters should choose hope over fear, change over more of the same. B.C. didn’t get the memo. They chose the opposite.

The result is extremely disappointing for anyone concerned about the health of democracy in Canada. This morning I have little interest in being gracious. It was the wrong decision, and we will pay for it.

Thanks, though

The one thing that makes me wish I could be more positive this morning are the many good people who volunteered for causes they believed in. To the volunteers of the STV campaign and the Green campaign, thank you. Despite the disappointment, things are still better due to your efforts.

1: No-STV President Bill Tieleman wrote: “The Yes STV side has a great many volunteers organized for the past several years through Fair Voting BC. No STV has approached the referendum completely differently and is putting almost all resources into television, radio and print advertising… We do not have lawn signs and you will not see any this campaign…”

7 thoughts on “British Columbia’s election

  1. Chris – the truth is that the YES to STV side had 5000 volunteers and likely $250,000 more than our NO STV group did – yet it lost overwhelmingly.

    That’s because STV is fundamentally a bad idea and no amount of selling it worked.

    You can indulge in conspiracy theories and yes – sore loser comments – but the voters of BC figured out STV and rejected it.

    Blaming me personally for “misinformation and spin” when we put the straight facts out about STV’s disastrous record in Ireland and Malta only guarantees that your side will continue to fail.

    I hate to lose too, but denial of what happened won’t make it better.

  2. Why was STV rejected? Let me put it into a slogan

    “STV: Change you can be confused over”

    It’s the same reason why Harper was so successful portraying a coalition with more seats than him as undemocratic: Most people just don’t get it. They simply don’t even know what a minority government is. Almost every person on the street I talked to at the time thought Harper had a majority of seats.

    Ignorance always knows best.

    Anyway, Proportional rep is dead in Canada for the next 20 years. Get used to it. The ‘no’ side knows all too well now how to derail PR.

    Pour yourself into vote swapping and eroding the power of political parties instead.

  3. @Bill Tieleman Thanks for commenting. Do you have any theories on why Yes STV had so much more grassroots support in the form of donations and volunteers? It suggests to me that the people who support STV feel more strongly about their position than the people who oppose it, but I’d be interested to hear if you have some other ideas.

  4. I supported BC-STV as I think it’s better than what we have now, but I agree with Bill here. A few things killed public support, as far as I can tell. (1) Riding amalgamation wasn’t something most people were willing to accept. People like their familiar notion of local accountability. (2) IRV, the core voting mechanism behind STV, can produce bad results in demonstrable cases. Google IRV and Condorcet for more info on that. (3) Pushing forward electoral reform provincially was biting off more than we could chew. People didn’t have a local example to grab on to, and may have been more willing to support the notion if, for example, we had it working in Vancouver.

    Maybe we could have better luck if we started working on the municipal level, yeah?

  5. @Bill Tieleman Re: “That’s because STV is fundamentally a bad idea and no amount of selling it worked.” No Bill. Its just because there’s people like you in this world who won’t mind putting FUD out there ahead of advancing democracy. BC-NDP would have gained seats with STV and you damn well deserved to loose that election.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *