Voting habits don't have to change under STV

This letter was received by the Georgia Straight on April 17, 2009.

I am a proud Canadian and a proud British Columbian. We live in a place where the future is embraced, where taking a leadership role is considered the way to go, and where the passionate exchange of ideas is considered a part of everyday life. So when I read David Schreck's article ["Adopting STV could make B.C. politics worse", April 16], my first thought was. No, really? Really?

In cancer care, HIV policy, the environment, wellness—and many other issues—we are well in front of much of the world. But we're also trapped in an inflexible electoral system that puts ultimate political power in the hands of party leaders. No, not party grassroots: leaders. Any party in power can pick an eejit insider and we're stuck with them if they've got a majority until the next election. And when the leader of the opposition is a knucklehead, our adversarial political system falls down like a broken bicycle.

I have family in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. Each of those countries have aspects of their political culture that are good or bad. In the UK it's still first past the post (FPTP), but most parliamentary votes are conscience votes; in the U.S., ditto, except all votes are "free votes."

Australia compels voters to rank all candidates or to select a single party: if you're inclined to rank up to 75 candidates for six senate seats it's great...but if you only choose one party, they can sell your vote to another one—even one you'd never vote for. New Zealand has mixed-member proportional, which does adjust the number of seats based on overall party support: it does this, however, by giving parties seats without constituencies, whose seat holders are wholly beholden to the party leadership. More party power as a tradeoff for proportionality.

Ireland has STV; ditto Malta. Ireland has had it since the '20s and routinely produces stable coalition governments. Malta has used STV since the '70s and still hasn't sent a single third party candidate to parliament. Funny that Schreck uses Malta to prove his point, when it disproves it: voters there are split between two major parties and those two parties split the seats proportionately. Ireland elects smaller parties and independent all the time, by the way.

What Schreck doesn't acknowledge is that no one needs to do anything differently if they don't want to under STV. You like FPTP, vote for one candidate. You want to rank all candidates, go for it; if you only want to rank five, go for it.

Every single person I know would like to be able to consider sending a strong local advocate or a Green or Conservative some support, but under FPTP that has almost always been a wasted vote. Whatever party I've supported in the past, I don't want any party given the keys to Lotus Land when they haven't earned a clear majority of our support. STV would reduce the likelihood of that happening. And a few more voices would probably getting into the Legislative Assembly, and anything that broadens our embarrassing left/right socialist/free enterprise political discourse could only be a very good thing for B.C.

If you want change, vote yes to STV. If you want things to stay the same, vote yes.

> John P. Egan / Vancouver