Although our current electoral system continually distorts the will of the electorate, we have to work with what we have. Fair Vote Canada will be launching the results of its Where They Stand campaign next week and if you’re planning to vote on October 19th, our volunteer Sarah has put together this great primer on party positions on proportional representation.
Fair Vote Vancouver is co-sponsoring an event to discuss electoral reform at the Vancouver Public Library on Sept. 15th. The event will feature panellists from groups such as Leadnow, Generation Squeeze, Equal Voice, UBCC350, and Metro Van Alliance.
Last week, we hosted a discussion about electoral reform at the Bob Prittie Metrotown library. There was standing-room only for the event, which featured our three gracious panelists, Kennedy Stewart (NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas), Joyce Murray (Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra), and Wes Regan (Green Party candidate for Vancouver East).
All three panelists agreed that the current electoral system is having negative effects on Canadian democracy, but each proposed a different solution to the problem.
Join us for our AGM and help make 2015 the last unfair election! We are seeking new board members and volunteers. If you like what we’re doing, or even if you don’t like what we’re doing, please join us!
Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Time: 7PM to 9PM
Location: Mount Pleasant Community Centre
Address: 1 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC
With special guest speaker, Max Cameron, Director of UBC Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
Available board roles:
General Board Members
*We are in particular need of someone who has social media and/or WordPress skills.
If you would like to review our by-laws before the AGM, they can be viewed here. Please check back for an agenda before the event.
The Fair Vote Vancouver AGM is fast approaching and in preparation, we wanted you to know about some of our accomplishments this year. We had an active board in 2014 and we also benefited from the involvement of a number of supporters and volunteers who helped to shape our plans and make them a success. The strength and influence of our organization is a direct result of the involvement of our supporters and volunteers.
If the Vancouver Civic Election had been held under a proportional electoral system, the results would have looked quite different. On a party level, the actual results looked like this:
NPA got a slightly higher overall vote than Vision at 33% vs. 32%.
The Greens and COPE received 13% and 12% respectively.
Other minor parties and independents received a total of 10%.
We can only speculate what the results would be if we had proportional representation (more on this below), but if we took the party percentages above as a guide, then we would assign one seat for COPE, one for the Greens, and three seats each for NPA and Vision respectively.
That adds up to eight seats and leaves two council seats unaccounted for. Without further information about voter preferences, we can only guess who should win those two seats.
Under either Single Transferrable Vote (STV) or Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) systems there are mechanisms that would be much more likely to take those votes into account. For instance, with STV, if a number of voters chose a candidate who only received 2% of the vote, that candidate would eventually be dropped off the list and those voters would have their votes applied to their second or third choice instead.
The key problem in this analysis is that the voting system itself has an effect on voting, particularly with regard to strategic voting. Under the current system, voters have to be careful not to “split the vote”, so they may end up voting for a candidate or party that is second best in order to prevent a less wanted candidate or party from winning. With proportional representation, this is usually not an issue and voters can vote more freely, not needing to worry about strategic voting or vote splitting. Then again, under a PR system, the parties would run a different campaign as well, which might further affect the outcome. One way or another, the outcome of the election under PR would not be the same as an election run under our current the at-large system.
In a city as diverse as Vancouver, the value of proportional representation in civic elections is to ensure that all members of our communities are represented on council. How can city council make decisions that properly reflect the wishes of the community if the community is not properly represented? It can’t.
It should be obvious that a representative democracy should have a voting system that ensures proper representation. But this is not the goal of the at large voting system that we currently use, which, instead, is designed to choose majorities whenever possible. It does this by awarding extra seats to the party that “wins” the election. This award is not explicit, but is a clear and demonstrable side effect of the way votes are counted. There are many examples of past civic elections in both Vancouver and Burnaby where this unearned dividend resulted in council sweeps. In the Vancouver 2011 election, Vision won seven seats with only 34% of the vote and repeated this almost exactly in the most recent election on November 15th, 2014.
And the problem is no different on a provincial or federal level. In order to represent multiple viewpoints for any given constituency, it’s necessary to have multiple representatives for that constituency. No single person can represent multiple different points of view. It’s also why a single member ward system would be a bad choice for civic electoral change.
We do have multiple representatives in our current first past the post voting system, but the other requirement is to count votes in a way that ensure that equal numbers of voters who vote the same way are represented in the outcome. This is the purpose of the quota in the single transferrable vote system, and the reason for the party vote in mixed member proportional systems.
Proportional representation voting systems are designed to ensure that all voters are represented on city council. PR voting would lead to more democratic civic councils whose decisions better reflect the voters’ wishes. Let’s stop repeating our past. Talk to your council and push for change to our civic electoral system.Image courtesy of flickr.com/jmv
Proportional representation can get complicated, but we’d like to narrow the discussion for you. There are two main proportional voting systems that have been discussed for Vancouver’s civic elections. Both are mentioned in Justice Thomas Berger’s Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission report from 2004, and they are STV and MMP.
Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) is a hybrid system that includes a vote for a local ward representative along with a party vote. The ward vote is counted using a first past the post (or run off) strategy and the party vote is used to assign “topup” candidates from party lists in order to ensure party proportionality. MMP could work for Vancouver and possibly some other large BC cities, but it would not work for smaller towns where there are no established slates or civic parties.
Single Transferrable Vote (STV) is probably familiar to many British Columbians because it was the system proposed for BC provincial elections by the BC Citizens Assembly in 2005. STV is well suited to local elections in BC because it requires multimember ridings such as the ones we use throughout BC already, and does not require slates or parties. Pitfalls to STV include a misunderstanding of the process as it is not as simple as MMP or other PR forms, however, it is considered one of the few more accurate forms of calculating vote in relation to proportionality.
If you would like to learn more about PR and other forms of it, visit the Ace Project, a non-governmental online democracy encyclopaedia.
Image courtesy of flickr.com/Kenny Louie
Candidates from five different parties all support a system of proportional representation that would better represent voters and strengthen local democracy.
Throughout the campaign, several candidates have noted that voters are tired of “unbalanced” city councils that are dominated by strong majorities and can ignore the desires of many constituents. Proportional representation would minimize these issues.Electing a council that supports proportional representation could make this the last unfair civic election.
Fair Vote Canada’s Vancouver chapter has been asking candidates to sign the Fair Vote Civic Elections Pledge. Despite their disagreement about many other issues, candidates aligned with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the Cedar Party, the Green Party, the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), and Vision Vancouver have all voiced their support for electoral reform.
The President of Fair Vote Canada’s Vancouver chapter, Iain Macanulty, says “We’re encouraged to see candidates supporting an electoral system that protects democracy and we encourage the rest of the candidates to join them by signing our Fair Vote Civic Elections Pledge”.
Image © flickr.com/photos/gotovan
Vision Vancouver has indicated to Fair Vote Canada’s Vancouver Chapter that their councillors have previously asked the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter to allow the use of proportional representation in civic elections. Vision states that it is “committed to continue to pursue this change to the Vancouver Charter” and would implement proportional representation if it was allowed by the province and approved in a city-wide plebiscite. Read their position on proportional representation below:
Vision Vancouver, and individuals currently elected for Vision Vancouver, have a strong track record of advocating for changes to the Vancouver Charter to allow for consideration of proportional representation (PR) as a voting system for municipal elections in Vancouver.
Since taking office in 2008, Vision Vancouver has been a strong and active proponent for the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter to include PR as a permissible option for the municipal voting system, passing motions and conducting advocacy to the provincial government in June 2009, January 2010, March 2010, January 2012 and June 2013.
Vision Vancouver is committed to continue to pursue this change to the Vancouver Charter.
Our position has been that any change to the electoral system should be done through a binding city-wide plebiscite, and that this should not occur until such time as the provincial government approves PR to be an option in that plebiscite.