Category Archives: democracy and good government

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…”

STV: Power up your vote

One week from today on May 12th, British Columbians will vote on whether or not to change their voting system from the antiquated and inadequate first past the post to the improved Single Transferable Vote. The new voting system was designed by citizens and benefits voters. It’s simple to use (you get to rank candidates in order of preference instead of marking an X for only one candidate) and produces fairer results (STV is a form of proportional representation, meaning that the percentage of votes a party gets will be close to the percentage of seats they get).

If you care about fair voting and democracy anywhere in Canada, I urge you to support STV through a donation or by volunteering. The vote is winnable, but it will be very close since the frightened B.C. government has required an undemocratic 60% threshold for the proposal to pass. (Last time B.C. voted on this proposal it received 58% approval.) If the referendum fails, it will be the last one Canada gets for awhile.

23 seconds of liking Jack Layton

Various blog rumours: “Jack Layton may lend support to Stephen Harper’s government in exchange for a referendum on proportional representation.” (yay!)

Robert Silver at “If this rumour is true then it is the first move Jack Layton has made since he became leader of the NDP that is, without qualification, strategically smart.” (yes!)

Peter Zimonjic at “I called up Karl Belanger, Layton’s press secretary, and asked him if there was any truth to it He gave me a flat out: NO.” (damn!)

Aaaaaaaannnnnd scene. That was fun, eh? Now, as you were everyone. As you were.

What makes a politician great?

Embedded below, video from last night’s The Agenda. This was my third appearance (first one here, second one here) which makes it tempting to refer to myself as a regular, but that would probably jinx any chance I have at future appearances. (It’s a privilege and a joy to be on The Agenda. It’s a great show and Steve Paikin is a very impressive host.)

Get comfy before pushing play. It’s a little over 50 minutes long.