Stephen Kronstein: Consider peak oil and electoral reform when you vote

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      By Stephen Kronstein

      Our electoral system, economic structure, and politicians are failing us.

      With our first-past-the-post electoral system, we’re encouraged to vote strategically against what we fear, not for what we want. In effect, our politicians are sent to the legislature with an inherently murky mandate, producing governments that do what they will, not what the public wills.

      Because of how votes are counted from riding to riding, FPTP doesn’t necessarily mean a majority rules. If candidate X wins 30 percent of the vote, and all others have less than 30 percent each, candidate X wins for being the first past the post.

      Unfortunately, the result is that the remaining 70 percent of the vote is disregarded in that riding because it didn’t go to elect the winner. Each riding then counts as a percentage of the total seats controlling the legislature, a figure no longer concerning the percentage of total votes collected across the province.

      Looking back to the 2001 provincial election, the Liberals won 97 percent of the house with just 58 percent of the popular vote. Much of this was a vote against the NDP, not for the Liberals.

      In 1996 the NDP won a majority in the legislature with just 39 percent of the overall vote, even though the Liberals actually had more total votes with 42 percent.

      Crazy.

      No wonder our electorate is “apathetic”, or perhaps more discouraged.

      This is why, in the referendum also held on May 12 election day, I’m voting for B.C. single transferable vote, the new electoral system being proposed by the independent Citizens’ Assembly.

      Explaining BC-STV requires a length of text beyond the constraints of this piece, but I can tell you it’s an advanced and modern system that’ll produce a legislature proportionately reflecting the general vote. It’s a system that significantly empowers the voter. We’ll see the critical sense of voter apathy disappear. Everyone will be enabled to vote for the candidates that best represent their views, rather than against what they fear. Politicians will enter the legislature with a clear mandate.

      To speak of our economic structure, which is tied to cheap oil, we’re guaranteed very hard times for having ignored the reality of peak oil for far too long.

      In 1965 the world saw the discovery rate of conventional oil fields start to decline. Oil was being produced at an increasing rate, but it was obvious that one day that rate of production would necessarily decline.

      Oil reserves are finite and at some point production rates will begin to decline, and that moment is peak oil.

      Stephen Hall, an expert in sustainability and green technologies, explained much about peak oil to me a few years ago when I interviewed him for an article published in a Richmond newspaper.

      Hall noted that the middle class in places like China and India—two massively populated countries—have seen exponential growth. As the middle class grows, more people develop a thirst for oil.

      Consider that a big-box business like Walmart gets about 80 percent of its product from China on diesel tankers, which is essentially a business model based on the availability of cheap oil. When oil production starts its decline while demand is on the rise all related costs will skyrocket.

      Think back to last summer when the price at the pump jumped 60 cents a litre in just a few months. Airfares, food, and the price of virtually everything was on the rise. Everybody was talking about fuel costs.

      That same scenario is set to hit us again, only this time fuel prices will rise at an even more aggressive rate, not stopping until complete economic collapse.

      Businesses like Walmart will contract and then die. Their parking lots will sit empty, covering our farmland. Food will no longer be trucked in from Mexico or flown in from Australia. People will not be able to afford to drive to work.

      And this will not be a slow transition that we’ll be able to adapt to, especially as peak oil doesn’t even seem to be on our radar yet.

      Vancouver’s population of two million is sitting at the 49th parallel, which is not the equator where you can crop year round. We harvest once a year. It’ll take a few acres to feed each mouth, and there aren’t many in Vancouver who can afford that land. Those who have the acreage will be faced with desperately hungry neighbours. It could get very nasty.

      For me, this election is not about being elected, as FPTP virtually ensures B.C. a two-party system, with victory seemingly tied to money spent on negative-ad campaigning. Even if I wanted to, my campaign is not well funded enough to overcome that predicament.

      This election is about offering the public my message.

      If you’re looking for a reason to vote Green on May 12, consider that it’s the only top-three party addressing peak oil.

      Stephen Kronstein is the B.C. Green candidate in Vancouver-Point Grey.

      Comments

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      6 Comments

      seth

      Apr 20, 2009 at 11:53pm

      So when Gordo wins in Point Grey by 1000 votes and gets his ticket from you to destroy the environment for another 4 years you no doubt will not give a rats ass.

      Just like Raph Nader who's 5% gave us a million dead Iraqi's, 8 years of environmental destruction, and the 2nd great depression, you have no apologies for your irresponsible candidacy.

      seth

      Stephen Kronstein

      Apr 21, 2009 at 1:31am

      Are you suggesting that I'm to be responsible for people dieing because the NDP is not going to win Vancouver-Point Grey?

      If the NDP deserves it, they will win it. If they don't, they won't. I'm of the opinion that they don't deserve it, which is why I'm in the race speaking about peak oil. What you're saying is pure insult to me, and old politics, which is not the what BC needs right now. BC needs change, and fast.

      You seem to think the NDP owns green votes. The NDP needs to earn these votes, just like anyone else. If they aren't, then obviously there's a need for them to address how they're failing the electorate. Please stop blaming the greens for this. If there was no green option, people like me may not care to vote, which is what this whole "apathy" thing is about.

      You also seem to think that the NDP has the answers we need.

      And I complete disagree with you on both counts.

      It's certainly no helpful answer to a peak oil future that the NDP are taking the irresponsible position of dropping the carbon tax. By doing this they've just proven they're no friend of the environment and misunderstand the economy, and are rather just bent on getting more votes to play politics as usual.

      It appears to me that your disapproval is set in misplaced party rhetoric, rather than the an honest sense of ecological despair.

      Obtaining STV and reacting to peak oil is what will save our province, and the NDP is doing neither. STV will mean in 2013 greens will have a fair shot at being elected to speak in the legislature about how to save us from the NDP and Liberals playing politics as usual.

      For the sake of the carbon tax, I have no interest to see the NDP lead our province into even greater environmental doom than it's currently in. The people of BC deserve the opportunity to vote for something sane, to hear about a better way, which is what I suggest the green option is and why I'm running.

      Barry

      Apr 21, 2009 at 3:55pm

      I recommend to you the preferential voting system used in
      Australia. It works well and avoids that first past the post
      problem, When voting if there are six candidates standing
      you number one to six according to your preference.

      The result is no candidate that is unwabted by the majority can be elected.

      jimbo

      Apr 22, 2009 at 12:11pm

      BC's leading environmental scientist Alexandra Morton was on CKNW APR 21 3:15 PM.

      She made a statement confirming what Seth is saying about the Green's like Kronstein here.

      "I personally don't think the salmon are going to survive another Liberal term" --- Alexandra Morton April 21 2009

      Does Kronstein care?. Does seem unlikely.

      Twizzlers

      Apr 26, 2009 at 3:43am

      It is appaling to suggest that people should not offer alternatives just because it would mean they are by default vote in the liberals and subsequently kill all the wild salmon. Come on! What kind of an unfair shot is that?

      It is quite arrogant and dangerously ignorant to blame the Greens for offering a solid platform and obtaining accordingly a deservedly high voter support.

      No one should calculate their vote based on who they do NOT want to see in power. Everyone should vote supporting who and what they believe in.

      STV addresses that problem and ensures fair representation (it favours no particular party).

      And in regards to actions people dislike, regardless of which government implements them: get off your behind and do something about it! The only reason the liberals are going ahead with the fish farms (other than the obviously hugely profitable reasons) is because they know they get away with it, as not enough people care enough to be willing to go after them.

      If there were consistent mass boycotts, if people would actually actively hold their MLA's, premiers, attorney generals and the likes accountable... if everyone would actually get educated on the pressing issues and speak up loudly and clearly with their voices, their votes and their wallets...things would be different.

      So: make whoever gets your vote earn it in the first place! If you vote Liberal, know why, if you vote NDP, again, know why, if you vote Green, do so because you know why.

      People get the government they deserve - and have no one else but themselves to blame for it.

      Furthermore, if you don't like the way politics have been run in the past decades, go ahead and vote for STV and see what happens.

      The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.