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May 22, 2005

Further Info on New BC Voting System Initiative

A number of people sent useful additional information on the scene in British Columbia regarding the vote on the electoral reforms recommended by the 2004 Citizen Assembly (see my 5/19 blog entry New Voting System in British Columbia Wins and Loses). Some of them have been posted as comments on that blog entry, but others were sent to me by email. Since they are so substantive, and will be useful to any of us who wish to pursue this initiative or work on similar ones, I am posting those responses here. Check the original blog entry comments for further points.

An interesting initiative arising from this is a t-shirt campaign which says "What part of 57.38% Yes do you not understand?"


From: "George Sranko" <geo(AT)jollytoad.com>

On the whole, STV failed (numerically, but perhaps not in spirit) because of
a concerted effort to discredit it by those with the most to lose if
political power was transferred from political parties to citizen voters...
including the power brokers, lobbyists and corporate-owned media. Even so,
given the almost epic barrage of negative opinion pieces in the major
newspapers over the past few weeks, 57% is an incredible showing! I don't
think electoral reform and calls for proportional representation are going
to go away in BC - both the premier and the leader of the opposition have
stated publicly today (I'm paraphrasing here) that the strong referendum
result indicates a public desire for reform (see what the leader of the
opposition had to say today at

For a cross section of BC citizens' views on STV and the referendum results
it's worth taking a look at

At a personal level, I hope to interest the alumni of the Citizens' Assembly
in taking advantage of their high public profile, intellectual capital and
sheer momentum in the direction of reform to sponsor Wisdom Councils at some
level in the province. Jim Rough is supportive of the idea.

Best regards,
George Sranko
Collaborative Policy Institute


From: Caspar Davis <prana4(AT)shaw.ca>

The government refused to fund any dissemination of information about STV once the CA'S final report was delivered to all British Columbians. Many members of the CA worked hard to inform the public, but both pro and con campaigns were all volunteer and had very little money. The antis mainly said STV was "too complicated," whish was echoed in the media, although there was a good balance of articles in many print and broadcast media.

Those who attended forums or otherwise became informed were overwhelmingly in favour. It seems almost certain that the bulk of the "no" vote came from people who felt they didn't understand STV and who chose to vote no rather than abstaining. It is my understanding that the vote on STV was 4% less than the 57% turnout for the election, although I do not know if that was 4% of the eligible voters or 4% of the 57%. Needless to say I was and am involved in the "Yes" campaign, although not as deeply as some.

Caspar Davis


<From a known source who asks that his name not be released in relation to this>

The Proportional Representation form of elections is what the Citizen's Assembly was all about. The Assembly was created by Gordon Campbell when he was elected four years ago. It was innovative and exciting, as a concept,randomly selecting the 2 people from each riding (electoral district) around the Province. This group of 158 folks met diligently for months, and came out with the STV proposal.

The Green Party had been pushing very hard for a different voting system for accomplishing "pro rep". The Assembly came out with a different system than the Greens wanted. First the Greens condemned the STV (single transferable vote system), as not doing the job. Then various old line party folks from the other two parties came out attacking it in one way or another. The Greens softened and in the end, gave it very lukewarm support, but not formally. Thus some Greens stayed opposed. A number of individual politicians, such as Gregor, endorsed STV, but there was no strong move behind it. Most disappointingly, Campbell seemed to have been innovative enough to form the Assembly, but then let the thing die, appearing to have calculated the positive buzz from the Assembly, but not wanting to support the actual intention/result. With even modest support from the Premier who'd set the whole thing in motion, it would have passed. And if any of the parties had chosen to make it a priority, it would have had a boost.

Instead, it was left to obscure dialogue and grass roots discussion, with no mass appeal.

Meanwhile, the desire was still strong amoung populace for a system that would allow people to vote their conscience and values, without facing being "spoiler" who accidentally elect their worst nightmare (a la Nader and also the Green party in BC who had every one of their votes gone to the NDP in a handful of ridings, NDP would be the majority today). That desire pulled out 57% of the vote in favour of STV.

Thus, no change.

However, this was a large enough mandate, that presumably there remains enough momentum to push for some form of "pro rep" over the next few years. BC would have been the first jurisdiction in North America to have it. Much more diversity of political party is possible with pro rep. However, someone with an institutional or financial base, needs to make it their major work for a few years to pull it off. The Green Party took a substantial backslide in this election cycle, going from 12% in 2001 to 9% in 2005, or 180,000 votes down to 120,000 or something in that range. Though they got enough votes to be bigger than the spread by which the right wing ("Liberals") beat the NDP (progressive moderate/left) in a number of ridings, they will need something to keep their momentum from waning more. They are the weakest of the 3 in terms of pulling it off, but they have the most at stake and little else to work on during the 4 years, with zero seats in the Legislature. Perhaps they will regroup around this issue.

It was Campbell who set the terms about STV at 60%. He could change the system without that vote. So there is a big window here if someone had some cash to organize, either inside politics or outside with public pressure. It would be a very shrewd move for him to install pro rep and start out his administration with a huge public pr success.


From: Vic Williams <process-facilitator

Tom Atlee wrote:
** it looks like the process may be kicking off some very productive dialogue.**

It's enlarging the debate into the public domain. The promoters say
another week would have given them full victory. They say they will
be approaching the Campbell government for further work. MANY people
are still basically oblivious, and have been told that it's very
complex (hinting unworkable).

Tom Atlee wrote:
** I would love to know more about the media debate and advertising campaigns that preceded the elections. If you have more information, please post a comment. **

MINIMAL. Ignored. Powerful people who like to move a few levers to
get things down decried it. As did the Greens. The Greens say it
doesn't support Northern rural people very well (everybody agrees
- and the current system doesn't either with so very few people
over a huge area).

The Rafe Mair radio show was the only active promoter that I know
of. He had a series of guests on with increasing direct support.

CBC radio had sets of personalities on in a form of actively neutral


From: Jan Slakov <js

you might find this letter I wrote on the STV (below) useful.

About the vote: I am actually quite encouraged. The STV is not easy to
explain to people and it is a new thing. Many people never found out enough
about it to make an informed decision.

But there were also many people who, like me, did what we could with very
limited resources, to help educate people and to encourage them to vote yes.
Many of us thought the mainly rural ridings would probably not vote for the
STV.. so we were delighted that support is so widespread.

all the best, Jan
Dear Editor,

Don't miss this opportunity!! - to make our province more democratic.

I'm referring to the upcoming referendum on STV or the single transferable
vote system.

Our government did a wonderful thing when it randomly selected people from
all walks of life, people of different ethnic backgrounds, ages, etc. to
form the Citizens' Assembly. These people were not politicians and had no
special interest motivating them; but they did care about democracy and how
our voting system works. They looked into the current system and found it
deficient in several respects and chose the STV system over the many
different ones they looked into.

The STV system has many advantages over the current system. For instance:

- We would be less likely to swing from one landslide victory for one party
to another so, less likely to have successive governments swinging from one
extreme to another.

- Even if a voter's first choice was not the candidate elected, the voter's
second or third choices could make a difference in the outcome of the
election, so each vote counts more.

- Ridings would be larger and each riding would have at least 2 elected
representatives. This means that if one respresentative was lazy, "sold out"
or whatever, there would still be a good chance of having someone decent to
represent us. And the representatives might want to pay attention to this
situation, and do their best.

- None of BC's major political parties endorse the BC-STV; it is truly a
non-partisan cause. The Chair of the Citizen's Assembly, Jack Blaney, summed
it up this way: "This really is power to the people."

One disadvantage is that the STV system is relatively new for Canada. Many
people may not have much time to look into it.

But please do take the time. We will need the best democracy we can get,
especially as our social and environmental problems become increasingly

For more information, call the Referendum Information Office at 1-800-
668-2800 or the YES campaign at 1-888-YES-2-STV. You can also visit:
<http://www.citizenassembly.bc.ca> or <http://www.STVforBC.com>.
One way to learn about the mechanics of the STV system is to do a
comparative election. A curriculum that tells you "how to" is at:
http://www.bguiled.com/BC-STV-curriculum.html ....


from: Doug Dobson <ddobson
(AT)telus.net> via Jan Slakov

If you look at the completed first count, a number of things stuck me in
the context of STV.
What part of 57.38% Yes (to STV) do you not understand?
In Carole James' own Contsituency they voted 67.64% Yes (to STV)!
In Gordon Campbell's Constituency they voted 63.61% Yes (to STV)!
There were only two Constituencies that there was an under 50% pro (STV)
- Kamloops (49.25% YES to STV)
- Kamloops-North Thompson (49.07% YES to STV)
The Referendum Law for this one only is a double majority of 60% and 50%
+1 in at least 60% of the ridings
(47.4 ridings), and we got 97.468%, (77 out of 79 ridings)

This is not an endorsement of some electoral change, but not some other
type of reform, as the parties would have the public believe, but in
support of what the Citizen's Assembly opted for, after considering
and setting the Priorities that were desired by the people of BC, which
included returning accountability of the MLA's to their Constituents,
and removing some of the Party influence, thus actually giving the MLA
the support that they need to represent their Constituents. They also
foresaw less drastic directional swings, from wild Left to Wild Right,
thus allowing the Province to move forward continuously, without the
frequent, complete, changes in direction.

They also saw less confrontational Campaigns, and general politics,
because of the necessity, to not alienate the voters of other Parties,
and in fact to get the most favourable positioning (with the Voter) even
within their own Party.

The party insiders all hate all of these, and thus prefer an MMP System
with a Party prioritized list which keeps the party control of all
MLA's (except independants, and what chance would they have) unchecked,

They have automatically installed a reasonable floor beyond which
support could not fall to be elected, by using the "Droop Quota". This I
am pretty certain, would make it very unlikely that a fringe candidate
could be elected, and hold a more representative group, ransom to their
very narrow agenda of that splinter group.

We must keep up the pressure. I have phoned the NDP Caucus with a
message for Carole James,stating the above obvious facts. They had to
agree, that STV, not just Electoral Change had received a very strong
mandate that could not be ignored.

My understanding is that the Premier has agreed to meet representatives
of the Yes Committee to include at least Bruce Hallsor, and has more or
less agreed to consult with the Citizen's Assembly. I believe that one
member of the assembly that should be included in the Citizen's Assembly
is Jack MacDonald, who has a very effective although soft sell of the
recommendation, and has written a book on the whole conduct and approach
of the Citizen's Assembly.

I believe that ignoring the recommendation arrived at with Great Care by
the Citizen's Assembly, who were paid expenses only for almost a full
year of their leisure time, would be a serious abuse of the goodwill of
our randomly selected non Political representatives, and those who tried
to misinterpret the results, if not the precise wording of the
Referendum Law, would be held to account.

I have proposed to Bernard Schulmann that we use what funds, or at least
some of those funds to produce, and sell at a profit, T-Shirts with a
Logo and what part of 57.4% YES do you not understand? We could each
commit to a number of these for resale to fellow supporters. All profits
to go to our ongoing Campaign.

I believe that Bernard is prepared, on the commitment of buyers to get
these produced.

I am sure with the support that we have received in this Campaign that a
large number could be justified.

We could canvas our own constituency areas, or parts of the
constituencies, to get subtotals which we could then forward to Bernard.
I am sure that we will be able to do quite well on Salt Spring, and I
have little doubt that the two Kamloops Constituencies would be anxious
to further spread the message.


posted by Tom Atlee on Sunday May 22 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:




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Readers' Comments

I think the Green Party bipassed the process of the Citizens Assembly and decided they could do a better job of deciding which form of voting system would be best. Now the NDP feels they can do better than the Citizens Assembly. The Citizens Assembly operated just like a jury, just bigger, but still sat for a year and heard all the evidence and put forward its recomendations to the judge, we the people. I think it would have helped if the Citizens Assembly had been given more credit for being the real essence of democracy. Letting people know of the excellent results arrived at by other Citizen Juries such as in England where a jury decided against GMF. See the Citizens jury in Australia called the "downpour' group or the Danish Deliberative Councils and many more. Just look up Citizens Juries on Google and see the list of accomplishments and know the our Citizens Assemby made the right choice.

Posted by: John Fellowes on May 24, 2005 03:53 AM


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