Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Next steps for STV, Greens and a look at the rural-urban divide

VICTORIA - Random notes from the confused day after the election.
First, there's a big political opportunity waiting for the party that acknowledges the public will and backs a switch to the single transferable vote system.
A majority of voters in 77 of the 79 ridings said 'yes' to STV, far beyond the required 60 per cent of ridings. Overall, 57 per cent of voters backed the change, just short of the 60-per-cent support threshold set by the government.
The threshold is not unreasonable.
But the referendum result is a clear indication of the public's desire to move to the new system, and the collective belief that it would deliver better, more democratic governments.
And it represents much more popular support than any political party has been able to win in B.C. for decades.
Both the NDP and the Liberals might like to ignore the referendum. Neither is keen on a change which reduces the power of parties and increases the chance that more independents and small party candidates would be elected.
But it would be wrong for them to ignore the will of the people, and foolish to ignore a great political opportunity to back something that has been proven popular with a majority of voters.
The leaders may recognize that. Gordon Campbell said STV isn't dead. "I think we should bring that to the legislature, to all members of the legislature and review where we may go from there, because there is clearly some hunger to see an improvement," he said. Carole James said she voted against STV, but backs an alternate form of proportional representation.
Campbell is on the right track. A caller to radio talk show suggested a simple, clean solution - bring the issue to the legislature, and allow a true free vote by MLAs. If they chose to represent their constituents, than 77 of them will vote yes, reflecting the referendum results. If they choose not to follow the wishes of the people who elected them, they can explain why.
Second, it is time for the Green Party to take a look at its future. Adriane Carr ran a focused, effective campaign in her riding, did well in both debates and got wide media coverage. But she still came third, with 26 per cent of the vote. (Victoria Green Ariel Lade offered himself up as a paper candidate in Peace River South halfway through the campaign, and never set foot in the riding. He got 9.4 per cent of the vote there.)
More significantly, despite four years in which to build, the Greens' share of the popular vote fell from 12 per cent to nine per cent. (Meaning they might be left out of the next leaders TV debate, as 10-per-cent support was one of the thresholds to be met.)
That still represents a lot of voters. But the Greens are mired on the fringe, farther from electing an MLA than they were four years ago. They need to make changes.
And finally, it's worth noting that the political divide between the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province is there, but less gaping than some had feared. The Liberals were strong in Vancouver and its affiliated sprawl, taking 27 seats to the NDP's 16. But they also prevailed in the rest of the province, 19 to 17.
It's a balanced outcome, one that means voters in every region can take concerns to MLAs from both sides of the house. If a government MLA is slow to act, there is an opposition representative available.
The Liberals' weaker showing in the region will likely mean new cabinet ministers. Bill Bennett, the only Liberal survivor in the Kootenays, will likely get a post. One of the MLAs from the Cariboo and the Bulkley Valley will likely replace the defeated Roger Harris as a regional cabinet representative.
Footnote: It's clear that Green voters could have delivered victory to the NDP or Liberals in 10 close races if they had changed their votes. But it's not at all clear which of the other two parties those voters might have moved to if they had opted to vote strategically. Green voters increasingly come from both sides of the political spectrum.


Anonymous said...

About Green votes as strategic votes: I voted Green, although I don't especially support their ideas (other than a vague sense that the environment should be taken into account when political and business decisions are made).

I would not have voted Green if I wasn't sure that the Liberals were going to be re-elected. Awful and clumsy and meanspirited as they have shown themselves to be, they're a better choice for BC than the NDP would have been.

I also would not have voted Green if I wasn't sure that the NDP was going to be elected in sufficient numbers to make a strong opposition. Incompetent and amateurish as they were as a government, the presence of the NDP in the Ledge helps keep the right-wing party from forgetting about those who are less fortunate.

I voted Green because my two important conditions were met, but I didn't want either the NDP or the Liberals to think I actually approved of their policies, records, or behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true Green. The liberals bad, the NDPp are bad, yet both parties like it of not have run the province. Just what has the Green's done so far.In this last election they seemed to have no sense of direction and some of their antics made for comic reading. One of their candidates, a small time developer cut down a bunch of Garry Oak trees on his property, not because they were diseased but they were in the way, then he goes around telling us just how pure the green's intentions are. So with their 9 percent of the vote, and their nusence values, the Liberals end up with majority and the Greens now have to decide if they want to spend more time in the wilderness. My gosh their leader came in third in the local election. after five years of campaigning. a record similar to the old Communist Party of BC

Anonymous said...

"Spoken like a true Green."


Maybe you might want to read that first comment again.

Anonymous said...

Bill Bennett's my MLA, and the prospect of him perversely benefitting from Kootenay voters' extermination of Campbell in the other three ridings didn't cross my mind until Wednesday morning. And it's not a prospect I'm particularly excited about.

But if you're right, and he gets some token region-appeasing position as Minister of State for Duck Hunting or something, may I suggest the press gallery get to know this guy closely? Never in my years of watching politics have I seen a more unstable nutbar in any office on either the left or right. There's a the perfect combination of factors for this guy to become a press gallery fave--severe anger-management issues, a loose tongue, unabashed neanderthalism that would make the likes of Darrel Stinson blush, and a general lack of any kind of professional qualifications to be in cabinet whatsoever--I figure he'll have brought some scandal upon himself within the year, assuming he isn't too busy doing nothing.

In just four years of local media coverage, he's already gotten nailed for having started a shoving match with health protesters while invoking Dick Cheney's famous Senate floor phrase, told completely contradictory accounts of the government's service consolidation plans a couple of nights apart at the different ends of the riding, attacked a twentysomething proponent at a public hearing about expanding Waterton Lakes National Park for--I kid you not-- having left the town to get university education where they filled his head with ivory tower rubbish (this was in front of five hundred people, and contrary to some views of the interior, did not go down too well), and, most recently, organized a rally of local rednecks to tell a visiting American senator opposed to cross-border water pollution that he was unwelcome in our country. The "Git off mah land" principle writ large, I suppose.

He'll be fun. Trust me. If he raises that much hell in four short years from the back of the backbench with only the most-of-an-English-degree local weekly reporters tailing him, wait until he gets a bigger sandbox and a bigger spotlight.