The Liberal voting paradox



BC Liberals are choosing a new leader this weekend.

Ah to be a Liberal and comfortable in the paradox of voting.

Led by all the leadership candidates (in fact it’s the only thing they agree on), Liberals breathing fire over the NDP’s plan to put a proportional voting system to referendum this fall. Judging by the rhetoric it will mark the end of Western Civilization and likely trigger the Four Horsemen.

Forget for a moment that previous Liberal governments held similar referenda … twice. That’s not the paradox.

The paradox is that the Liberals are using a preferential balloting system coupled with a formula to ensure rural, less populated, ridings have an equal voice in choosing the new leader.

Hmmm … isn’t that a kind of proportional representation? “It’s different” is the cry from the defenders. Not sure how it’s different, but apparently it is.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is the old refrain that was perfected by former leader Christy Clark, so I guess it’s not unexpected.

But on to the big question … who will win? Probably New England, er, sorry, wrong contest.

If the Liberals used a first-past-the-post system, it would probably be easy to pick a winner, but this dang proportional representation thingy makes it difficult for prognosticators.

Dianne Watt likely has a bit of a lead, or at least it seems that way because all the other candidates have focused their ire on her. She’s the outsider, after all, and just like nature abhors a vacuum, politics abhors a change.

The nice thing about the preferential balloting thing is that a candidate has to do more than be the first choice of a majority of voters, they also have to be the second choice of some and, quite possibly, the third choice of some. Leadership hopefuls have garner a broad base of support if they hope to win. Gee, what a terrible idea … saddle up Conquest.

This is nothing new to leadership races. When they were held all at once, usually in a convention hall somewhere, delegates would often vote several times as the bottom candidate was dropped off the ballot. The defeated candidate would then often make a big display of urging their supporters to vote for one of the remaining.

Great drama.

That’s why there’s nothing new in candidates Mike de Jong and Andrew Wilkinson urging their supporters to make the other guy their number two choice. There has been some criticism of this tactic, mostly from the Watt camp who claim it’s simply an effort to keep her from winning. That’s probably true, but it’s also simply another form of the age-old practice of urging your delegates to support the candidate of your choice should you be unsuccessful. With preferential balloting, it can’t be done on the convention floor, it has to be done ahead of time. It should also be noted that every delegate has a mind of their own might like someone else as their second choice.

So who will win on Saturday? It’s hard to say. Andrew Wilkinson is certainly the favoured candidate in this neck of the woods. He was the most well received in the North and is also the most conservative of the six, which also gains him support up North.

Diane Watt has the star power going for her, although that is fading and hasn’t shone in the debates, particularly when it comes to Interior issues, such as resources. She can likely deliver seats in Surrey though, which is where the new battleground seems to be.

Mike de Jong is certainly the most politically experienced of the bunch, but was a stalwart both the Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark Liberals.

Who will win? Too close to call and, once again, if they didn’t use that darn preferential ballot and proportional representation system it would be a lot easier, just not more representative.