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.
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.