Journal: News & Comment

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
# 10:52:00 AM:

Going down

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Yesterday's British Columbia provincial election went somewhat as expected, but while the incumbent Liberal government (essentially the same right-leaning coalition that used to go by the name Social Credit) was re-elected, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP—the left-leaning party, which I supported) made a strong showing. Certainly, it's an improvement over the previous Legislature, where the NDP had only three seats and the Liberals all the rest.

I'm disappointed that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) referendum didn't pass, and it was very close—57% in favour, instead of the 60% required. Dave Orchard suggests that,—since there are several different types of STV, and the BC-STV we were asked to consider was only one of them—we should instead have had a referendum on STV that itself used STV. Not a bad idea, really.

I am finding the pundit analysis of the drop in Green Party support to be rather off base. The Greens won 12% of the vote (but no seats) in 2001, and 9% of the vote (and no seats) in 2005. Analysts say that the drop means people don't consider the Greens a viable party. The problem is that, under the current electoral system, they are only not viable because those who might support having some Greens in the Legislature can't afford to risk voting for them.

In 2001, the NDP governments was heavily unpopular. While many people voted Liberal to oust them, many others who might otherwise have voted NDP and would never vote Liberal chose Green instead, in part as a protest vote, and in part because they did think the party was viable. But the resulting 77-to-2 Liberal-to-NDP Legislature (with no Greens, despite a decent showing) was too skewed, and this time voters obviously didn't want to risk the same blowout.

What I mean is that Green support (in terms of "I think they have good ideas and should have some Legislature seats, though perhaps not form government") is probably significantly more than 9%, and probably more than 12%. If the STV proportional representation system had passed, then in the next election, I would expect many people—both Liberal and NDP voters—might pick Greens as their second choice. And perhaps there would be more Green first choices too, with Liberals or NDP further down the list.

In B.C., we continue to have a system biased for two-party alternating rule. In 1991, voters essentially annihilated the former Social Credit government by electing the NDP to power and converting the previously fringe (and then-centrist) Liberal party into the opposition. But that situation couldn't last: within five years, the Liberals had been taken over by former Socreds, and the old left-right dynamic returned, where it has remained in every election since.

Things could have been different with STV. But at least for now, we won't know. Too bad.


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