Electoral change takes courage – who has some?


I have to admit I was a little envious of those who got picked to serve on British Columbia’s Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Even though I hadn’t figured out how I would manage to get away from work should my name be picked, I was hoping my name would come up. It didn’t, but it did for about 170 others and they set about their work of suggesting finding an electoral system that worked for British Columbians.

They came up with the single transferable vote system (STV). In the lead-up to the 2005 provincial election and referendum on the new system, I ran a mock election in the Cariboo using the STV system. I combined the two Cariboo ridings, as would likely happen under STV, and printed STV ballots in the newspaper, using the actual candidates that were seeking office.

I collected ballots, counted them, as they would be counted under STV, and ran the results in the newspaper with an explanation of how the votes were tallied.

Not surprisingly, the STV system would have sent the same two candidates to Victoria as the first-past-the-post system did. The only difference is the candidates took a longer route to get there … they needed voters to pick them as their second, third, or even fourth choice in order to get elected.

When we sent the system to a second referendum in conjunction with the 2009 provincial election, I did the same thing here in Prince George at the Free Press.

When Justin Trudeau was campaigning to become leader of the Liberal Party he made a stop in Prince George. I managed to get a short interview with him during a break in his activities at UNBC.

He talked then about getting rid of the first-past-the-post system. He talked about passionately. He was convincing in his arguments about how the ranked ballot system forced candidates to appeal to a broader voter base than just their party.

My point is that I’ve been invested in electoral change for a long, long time.

So, last week when Prime Minister Trudeau threw electoral change out with the rest of the pre-election trash, I was very, very disappointed.

Change, of any kind, takes courage. Changing our electoral system change takes a government with courage because it tinkers, in an unknown way, with the system that brought it power. It’s kind of like filling up the tank of your diesel-powered dually and driving it as far as that tank will take you towing a trailer carrying a Volt and then hoping that Volt will have enough juice to get you home.

You know it will be better for everyone in the long run, but you just don’t want to run the risk that it might not get you home as fast, or as easily, as the diesel.

Inside Today

 


About Bill Phillips

Bill Phillips is an award-winning journalist and columnist with more than 30 years experience. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He is the former editor of the Prince George Free Press.