I got a very interesting email from a reader last night offering plausible reasons why electoral-system reform might fail, again, in British Columbia in this week’s referendum. And if it comes to it, I’ll share his analysis with you. But how about this: If you have anything to say about it, don’t let it fail, OK?
Thoughtful people have put an amazing amount of work into finding a voting system that more closely brings results into line with voter preference. In BC more than in any other jurisdiction I know, the whole thing was designed from the outset to involve ordinary voters in the important decisions. From soup to nuts, the whole thing was a majestic rebuke to the leader-knows-best secretiveness and arrogance that has typified far too much of our federal politics. Quite apart from the substance of the argument, I’d say this process deserves your endorsement. And do not doubt that if a grassroots-driven, heavily deliberated reform is rejected again by voters, leaders will take this as their green light to stop bothering.
But of course the substance matters more. On that score, Andrew Coyne has done a fantastic job of laying out the arguments in favour of supporting STV in this week’s vote. You know he and I are not shy about disagreeing, so let me take this chance to endorse his argument entirely. But I also want to add two other broad arguments of my own.
First, this is what federalism is for. There is simply no point having provinces if they do all the big things the same way. If we don’t experiment with reforms, testing hypotheses here and there so we can adopt them more broadly if they succeed and go back to the old ways if we decide we liked them better, then we are spitting away one of the crucial advantages of federalism.
Second – well, this will sound like a joke, but I actually mean it. After several visits to Vancouver and other parts of BC, I decided many years ago I love the place, but it took several visits because I learned early I would have to put up with the inevitable series of lectures, every time, from British Columbians about how life is so much better out there, and the landscapes are so much more beautiful and the lifestyles are so much more enjoyable and everyone’s gorgeous and it never gets cold and on and on and freaking on about, How could you people from beyond the mountains be so dumb as to live in horrible places like Alberta and Ontario and the prairies and Quebec?
OK then. I get it. It’s better in B.C. You live better lives in a better place, you’re healthier and smarter and you barely pause to think about us poor shambling freaks on the other side of the mountains. Fine.
But then why do you cling to the very same electoral system we use? Especially when it delivers consistently appalling results that make your province’s politics a national laughing stock?
Here’s your chance to lead – or if the rest of us are too dumb to follow, then to go your own way. Which is what you never tire of telling us you like to do.
Voting for a sane electoral system is an excellent chance for British Columbians to put their money where their mouth is. What are you, chicken?