British Columbia is Candide, cultivating its garden.

Author:Richards, John
 
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In the British Columbia general election of May 2017, the incumbent Liberals elected a plurality of members to the legislature (43). The NDP won fewer seats (41) but, with the support of the small Green contingent (3), an NDP-Green government has come into office. In this section, we present two articles on two very different priorities for the new government: pursuing electoral reform and deciding the fate of the Site C dam.

Electoral reform

For predictable reasons--they won 16.8 per cent of the popular vote but only 3.4 per cent of the seats--the Greens are very keen to introduce some form of proportional representation and scrap the present "first past the post" electoral system. In principle, the NDP is also in favour, but being in office they lack the Greens' fervour for changing an electoral system that brought them to power.

Following the 2001 provincial election, B.C. was in a similar situation inasmuch as the victors (the Liberals) held all but two seats; the formerly incumbent NDP won only two, a gross underrepresentation relative to its 22 per cent popular vote. The Liberals agreed that a citizens' assembly could decide on an alternative voting system, which would be adopted if approved in a future referendum. The assembly recommended the single transferable vote (STV), a complicated form of proportional representation that failed the Tim Horton's test. Within the length of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, no one can explain how STV works. Nonetheless, STV was twice put to a referendum. In the 2005 referendum, support came close to the 60 per cent threshold set for adoption. After another four years of discussion at Tim Horton's, support for STV in the 2009 referendum collapsed. The status quo has prevailed.

David Moscrop has written an excellent article summarizing the recent history of electoral reform in B.C. and the prospects for changing the electoral system in the near future. To accelerate the process of deciding between multiple alternatives, the government has hinted that it will adopt an alternate vote referendum whereby voters rank alternatives (including first past the post). The winner depends on iterative counting. First, votes are ranked based on first choices; the bottom option is dropped and its second choices reallocated. The process continues until one option gains 50 per cent support. Moscrop's prediction: first past the post will survive this exercise and remains as our electoral system.

In my own view, the great virtue of our present electoral system is that, usually, it generates majority governments able...

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