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Electoral Reform Referendum in BC #4932
Back To Discussion List Written: 2017.10.23 by: Robin Tivy

As you know, there is going to be a referendum in British Columbia on possible improvements to electoral reform. Ideally voting systems would be judged according to their pros and cons, not which existing parties might "win" or lose. The question should be "Which system collects more information from voters", not which of today's parties might become more or less powerful.

Below are some alternatives (not necessarily the ones on the referendum) The proper way to vote on these in a referendum is a ranked ballot, where voters mark their first, second, third and fourth choices. For example, my first choice might be Alternative vote, socond MMP, third DMP, and fouth First past the post.

  1. First past the post
     Voters can only choose one person, and cannot indicate any second choice. Whoever gets the most votes wins. Problem is that people can be elected, even if the majority would prefer anything but them. This is the system we have right now.

  2. Mixed member Proportional (MMP)
     The general idea is that the final proportion of MLA's corresponds to the percentage of popular vote. There are several flavors of this system.

  3. Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
     This is the same as MMP except that all members come from local ridings. But each riding is twice as large and elects 2 members. The 1st seat in every district is awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes, similar to first-past-the-post voting (FPTP). The 2nd seat is awarded to one of the remaining district candidates so that proportionality is achieved across the region, using a calculation that aims to award parties their seats in the districts where they had their strongest performances.


  4. Alternative Vote (AV) Ranked ballot (Instant runoff)
     (this system is not one of the choices in the referendum) This system uses the existing ridings, but only the ballot is changed. As with FPTP, there are multiple candidates on the ballot, one from each party or independent, and the voter marks their first choice with a "1", second choice with "2" and so on. The votes are counted in multiple passes. After the first pass, the choice with the least votes gets eliminated, and those votes are re assigned according to their second choice. To win, a candidate must accumulate more than 50% of the ballots, so it becomes important to be moderate so you become people's second choice. It is used in Australia. This system eliminates vote splitting and the need for strategic voting, because even if your first choice is eliminated, your second choice counts. Nobody gets elected without at least some support from more than 50% of the voters.



#6431 - 2019.01.11 Robin Tivy - Problems with FPTP Have Not Disappeared
Now that the referendum failed, various pundits are trying to define the reasons for the failure. For example, today I see an article by Ken Verge saying "Pro rep" was always a solution in search of a problem." See the following article:

  He is wrong. Just because the referendum failed doesn't mean there is no problem with FPTP. THe huge, glaring problem is vote splitting. To see the stupidity of this declaration, just look at all the discussions of vote splitting in the same newspaper. Read about the problem of vote splitting in the upcoming January 30 byelection in Nanaimo, and whether or not the Green candidate should withdraw so as to ensure the vote doesn't get split.


Or Ontario, where 59% of the electorate voted against Doug Ford, but with FPTP he now makes daily headlines ramming his agenda down the throats of the majority who voted against him. It is the job of an voting system to reflect the true will of the people, not frustrate them because they have no means to indicate their preferences. With a ranked ballot, it is very unlikely Ford would have been elected.

  Furthermore, although David Eby tries to advance the narrative that the referendum was well designed and delivered a conclusive result, this is also false. In actual fact, there were huge numbers of people that pointed out it was really badly designed before the actual referendum. The two question structure was stacked, and the alternatives were very poorly defined. Eby did a bad job. But one thing he says I think is true: the supporters of pro-rep were so divided they couldn't agree among themselves to give him proper guidance. I discovered the same thing myself. Too many of the pro-rep "experts" were themselves unwilling to compromise. Unwilling to consider alternatives. And unwilling to address the legitimate concerns of the opponents. But their stupidity doesn't mean there is not a problem with FPTP. There is a problem.

So here is my message for the defeated troops in favor of pro-rep. We can't sell a solution that solves all the problems at once. We need incremental change. One simple problem that can be solved without the downside risk of pro-rep is the "split vote" problem. It is the ranked ballot system. A "ranked ballot" allows voters to indicate the order of their preference of a given set of candidates, 1,2,3. Some call it preferential voting or alternative voting. It is the system used by all existing political parties to elect their leaders. Including the BC Liberals. All you need is a simple change to the ballot. No complicated formulas. No riding boundary changes. This change can much more easily argued than full blown pro-rep. No risk of fringe parties. All it changes is that every elected member must ultimately have support by more than 50% of the voters. So you can ask them what is wrong with that?

The answer I got from many pro-rep zelots was that ranked ballot was just FPTP on steroids. When I asked what that meant, they seemed to think it would work against progressive parties like the Green party. They are wrong. What is most likely is the Green ridings would still stay green. The example below is a typical Green riding under both FPTP and Ranked ballot. Each row below corresponds to a given combination of preferences. Eg: Liberal-NDP means people whose first choice is Liberal and second choice is NDP. Below are the 6 preferences, and the number of each:

  Liberal-NDP 5
  Liberal-Green 5
  NDP-Liberal 2
  NDP-Green 5
  Green-NDP 10
  Green-Liberal 2

First count:
  Green 12
  Liberal 10
  NDP 7

So after first count, NDP is out, and we look at their second vote:

  Green 12 + 5
  Liberal 10 + 2

So in the above, Green would win in either system.

And in the other ridings where the vote against the Liberals was split between NDP and Green, such as Kootenays, Green or NDP might pick up a few seats.

  Liberal-Green 10
  Liberal-NDP 3 13
  NDP-Green 10
  NDP-Liberal 2 12
  Green-Liberal 2
  Green-NDP 6 11

Second count eliminates Green, so their ballots are redistributed according to their second choice:

  Liberal 13 + 2
  NDP 12 + 6

So NDP wins, because once you eliminate Green, more people prefer them than the Liberals.
  A ranked ballot is more accurate measure of the will of the people because it gathers more information. It measures peoples first choice, but also their second choice. Everybody gets a "say" even if their first choice is eliminated. No need to vote strategically.

Note that ranked ballot does not necessarily favor left wing parties. In Alberta, the NDP is currently in power mostly because the conservative opposition to them was split. We shouldn't judge voting systems based on who you want to win.

A ranked system encourages new parties because at least there is a measure of their growing support. Quality candidates can get encouragement by seeing a rise in number of votes. Voters can say "my first choice is Green, and my second choice is NDP" without wasting their vote. So even if the Green candidate is eliminated, at least the candidate can see results. And the winning party is more likely to address the concerns of the eliminated minority if the true support is visible, not hidden by strategic voting.

Consider the last Federal election. I suspect that much of the support the Liberals got was from people whose first preference might have been NDP, but who were forced to vote Liberal just to defeat the conservative candidate. It would be much more accurate if people were able to indicate that their first choice was NDP, but second choice Liberal.

#6419 - 2018.12.23 Robin Tivy - What have we learned from Referendum Results?
As you may know, the results of the referendum were announced Friday, and 61% voted to stay with "first past the post". So what have we learned?

1. The two question referendum was a bad idea, because it "stacked" the referendum. Many people I talked to said they voted against it for that reason. As I said in the past, it would have been better to have all the choices on a single level. And allow people to rank their preferences.

2. The choices should have been better defined. The strategy of just getting a general "mandate" for change was a bad idea. A "mandate" was interpreted as a blank check. People were not willing to give the government a "blank check".

  What hope is there in the future? Is this really the end of any possibility of reform for a decade? No. The problem of vote splitting has not gone away. Voters will again be frustrated when a party which would be the last choice of the majority repeatly gets in power because of the inability of "first past the post" to properly measure the will of the majority.

But for now, the people wanting reform are confused and divided. Too many wanted "my way or nothing". Too many would not enter into an objective discussion starting with a list of the problems.

The people who want change need to be willing to ask themselves what are the problems with the present system, and then consider all the options, and not get fixated on proportional. We must acknowledge that proportional systems do have problems as well as advantages. One problem is the fringe party problem and the second is the complexity problem. A ranked ballot system has neither of those problems. With a ranked ballot, you have all the same ridings as at present. No change. The only difference is you get to rank the candidates in your riding, indicating your first choice, your second choice and so on. If your first choice gets eliminated, they count your second choice. So you can truly express your preferences. You don't need to try and guess how everybody else will vote and then vote strategically. Even if your first choice is eliminated, your second choice is taken into account. So your vote is not wasted. This is the way all existing political parties choose their leaders. There's no complex mathematics. There is not a proliferation of small parties. The results are instantly known. It ensures everybody elected has at least some support of at least 50% of the voters. And it leaves room for up and coming parties to build support over several elections.

Some people say a preferential or ranked system is "first past the post on steroids". They are wrong. A ranked ballot system does not deliver the same results as FPTP. It eliminates the wasted vote. So an up and coming party such as the Green party there would at least be an indication of the fact they have support in a riding, even if they don't win. For example in my riding of Vancouver Point Grey, the present system forces people to vote strategically for NDP just to get rid of the BC Liberals Christie Clark. So there is little indication of the true level of support for anything different. In a ranked ballot system, people would be free to indicate that their first choice was Green, and second choice NDP. So at least there would be a measure of the true support of the Greens.

#6355 - 2018.10.17 Robin Tivy - Mixed Member Proportional Example in BC
According to all the polls I've seen, the most likely type of proportional system to be chosen on the referendum would be "mixed Member Proportional". The key to explaining it is to be able to give an example where all the numbers are simple to calculate. There are two flavors: one vote or two vote. I'm explaining the "one vote" system. The ballot looks exactly the same as at present. The majority of members are elected that way. But there are also regional MLA's used to "top up" the region to make it proportional.

The government website and voter's guide provides a picture of one region which has 6 districts and 4 regional MLAs. Their example is for a two vote system, but my example is the one vote flavor. I use the same 10 member region, but assume different results. My example also gives the percentages of the popular vote.

But first, let's clarify how the system works. The first important point is that the province is divided into large regions, such as Vancouver Island or Northern BC. There is a party list for every region. These lists provide the names of the potential MLA's used to "top up" the total number of MLA's so it is proportional to the popular vote. I still have questions about how fractional proportions will be handled, but my example shows the basic idea with simple round numbers. Below is a link to the government website. See Elections BC Example Region with 10 MLAs total

The example in the website shows a region with 6 districts and 4 regional MLAs. Suppose of the 6 districts, the results were 3 NDP, and 3 Liberals, and 0 greens elected. Those 6 district seats are decided by "first past the post", exactly like now. The difference is that the popular vote is also taken into account. Suppose it was as follows in that region:

  Green 20%
  Liberal 40%
  NDP 40%

In the old system, Green gets no representation. But in the new system Green will get 2 "top up" MLA's from the district lists. The final proportion of the combined 10 MLA's should be 2,4 and 4 to make up 10. Since 3 and 3 were already elected in the districts, the remaining 4 regionals must be 1 Liberal, 1 NDP and 2 Green. These four would come from the party lists for that region.

To explain the system to someone else, note the convenience of the numbers. You have 10 MLA's in the region, with 6 district seats and 4 regional seats. So then it's easy to talk about the proportional vote in simple percentages like 20%, 40% and 40%.

#6281 - 2018.07.02 Robin Tivy - Mathmatical proof that the referendum is stacked
As you may know, I am strongly in favor of electoral reform to eliminate the wasted votes and false majorities inherent in the first past the post(FPTP) system. Of course there is opposition to this by well funded sources. At the outset of the referendum plans, the people who want change have attempted to design a referendum that would not be so easy to defeat. In particular, they came up with a 2 question design, where the first question is very simple: do you want to change to a proportional system or stick with the existing? And only if you voted for change, did you answer the second question.

This two question design is now being attacked for being "stacked". Unfortunately the critics are right, the two question referendum put forward by the NDP is in fact stacked. "Stacked" means "arranged to favor one type of outcome over another". You can illustrate that it is stacked just by arranging the 4 alternatives differently and seeing that you get a different result Here are the details:

There are four alternative systems (counting first past the post). You could call them "Red, Blue, Green and Yellow" if you wanted. But I have stuck with the actual names. Imagine the following preferences of people:

  Mixed Member Proportional 40%
  First Past the Post 30%
  Rural/Urban 10%
  Dual Member 20%

Now process those preferences with the two question format put forth by the NDP:

  1. Are you in favor of FPP or one of the other three (PR)?
  2. If you answered PR above, rank the other three.

The answer to the first question would be "one of the other three", and in fact MMP would be chosen.

Now imagine you move the 4 preferences to a different position, such that MMP was the alternative in the first question:

  1. Are you in favor of MMP or one of the other three?
  2. Which of the other three do you choose (rank)

In this case, MMP would be eliminated even though it was the most popular. And when the results were tallied for the second question, "First Past the Post" would win.

The point is that by arranging the alternatives differently you can cause different results. In other words, the referendum is somewhat stacked, just like the critics say. But I still support it, because any of the proportional systems are better than what we have right now.

The proper way to arrange the referendum ballot is to put all the choices on a single level, and have the voter rank their preferences. For example, my first choice might be Alternative vote, socond MMP, third DMP, and my last choice FPTP.

In general, what we need to do is listen to the valid criticisms of the opponents, and answer those objections fairly. Not simply ignore them. And offer alternatives that address those objections. If I was in charge, I would revise the referendum question immediately to just arrange the 4 alternatives at the same level. Tell the critics we are listening. Uncover their true objection. Thank them for their criticism.

#6278 - 2018.06.27 Robin Tivy - Main attack on PR is centered around format of referendum question
As you may know, the current plan for the upcoming referendum is to have two questions:

 1. First, do you want PR or stick with existing system yes or no,
 2. If you want change, which of 3 PR systems do you choose?

I predicted earlier in this discussion that the two question format of the referendum would be easy to attack as "stacked". Sure enough, the format of the referendum question itself has become the main attack point for people against change. The most recent is the editorial in the Globe and Mail:

Globe Editorial: BC Stacks the deck in it's Electoral reform referendum.

  As I have pointed out, a neutral and fair referendum would put all four alternatives on the same level, and allow people to rank them any way they want.

So this format of referendum is an unfortunate setback. This doesn't mean that proportional representation is a bad idea, it's just a bad referendum. It's not too late. The NDP could simply say they learned from feedback, and have changed to a simple referendum where people rank their choices 1,2,3,4. And one of those choices is sticking with the existing system. Such a ranked ballot referendum is not "stacked" in any way. And it does not "split the vote" for PR.

#6262 - 2018.05.24 Robin Tivy - Problems with Blank Check strategy become apparent
I think the referendum MUST spell out what system(s) we are proposing, and get the voters to rank their preference. My first choice is proportional, my second choice is an alternative vote system, and my last choice is the present first past the post.

Many people campaigning for proportional think a "mandate" or "blank check" strategy is the best strategy. They want a simple question like "Are you in favor of proportional, yes or no". They hope this will avoid getting bogged down in details. But I predicted there would be a problem with this strategy. The opponents of reform can easily argue against such a "blank check" by defining the outcome in the worst possible terms. Furthermore, they can oppose "blank check" referendums in general. The opponents are not stupid. So as I predicted, the opponents of reform such as Vaughn Palmer will expose the problem. See May 15th article in Vancouver Sun

#6227 - 2018.03.01 Robin Tivy - Answer to Scott Nelson DPR
I read the link in Scott Nelson's posting on "DPR" which I guess stands for "Direct Party and Representative". It seems to be in England. It is an interesting way to get proportional voting without changing boundaries. In the present BC legislature, if the three green party MLA's voted in favor of an issue, that would count as 16% in favor. (Because Green got 16% of the popular vote). At present, if three Green party members voted in favor of an issue, the weight of their vote would only be 3/87 = 3.4%

However, DPR is not likely to be one of the choices on this BC referendum. One weakness of DPR in my opinion would be that it does not encourage candidates and parties to try to compromise and reach out to become people's second and third choices. Whereas STV with 3 or 4 members per riding, and a ranked ballot does encourage parties to try and broaden their appeal, so as to be people's second choices.

#6225 - 2018.02.28 Scott Nelson - Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR)
I recently learned about this new proposal which weights the parliamentary vote of each member in proportion to how many votes their party received. This system appears to be an elegant way of maintaining the local representation of FPTP while giving the parties proportional voting power. See for details. However I suspect this system may run afoul of the Canadian constitution.

#6224 - 2018.02.28 Robin Tivy - My submission to the Government (Citizen Engagement)
In addition to the government questionnaire on How we Vote at, there is also an email address to which you can make a "written submission". So today, after discussions with opposing viewpoints who have somehow found out about what I have previously posted, I sent in the following submission. I realize that it's pretty short, but here it is:

---------------------to citizen engagement--------

Over the past few months, I have been engaged in numerous discussions with various viewpoints. My conclusion is that all the main options should be on the referendum ballot. The options must be well defined. And compromise is needed between people favoring Alternative Vote versus Proportional representation.

1. Alternative Vote (AV) After much discussion with various viewpoints in BC, I think the referendum should include "Alternative Vote" also called "AV", IRV, or "ranked ballot" as one of the options. The reason I think this should be one of the options is because there are still lots of people who are against Proportional representation, and their arguments are hard to counter. It would be much easier to sell change if those people had AV as one of the options. And much harder for them to claim that the system is being rigged.

2. I think people need to choose between actual systems, not just a "mandate" strategy where "experts" design the system. I don't think this should be done indirectly by voting on loosely defined "values" or "criteria".

3. Compromise Needed: What is needed is a system that both AV and PR supporters agree is a good compromise. Best compromise I can think of right now is STV with 2 or 3 members per district. The notation for that is STV(2) or STV(3). As you know, STV(1) is identical to AV, and STV(87) is full blown proportional. So it's just a question of what "x" is in STV(x)

#6216 - 2018.02.18 Robin Tivy - One Person one Vote in BC?
I got this wrong in my arguments, so I researched it again, and here are the results.

The general principle of the 2015 electoral boundaries commission was one person one vote. However there is an unfortunate exception to this rule. There are three regions that are "protected" such that the boundaries cannot be adjusted to reflect the true proportion of the population. From the report I cite below is the following statement:

"Amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act in May 2014 defined three regions of the province (the North Region, the Cariboo-Thompson Region, and the Columbia-Kootenay Region) in which the number of electoral districts cannot be reduced from their current number. This has, of course, influenced in large measure our ability to propose electoral districts that are equal in population."

So what are the results? How bad is it? The report lists the population of every riding at

Electoral district           Population  Deviation
  Stikine 20,616 -61.2
  Peace river 28,104 -36.9
  Kamloops-North 54,014 -44.0
  Langley 59,812 +12.6
  Vancouver Point Grey 60,611 +14.1
  Vancouver Fraserview 62,884 +18.4

From the above you can see that Stikine has about 1/3 the voters of Point Grey. So one vote in the Stikine is worth 3 of my votes. But this is an extreme example, in general the population of most ridings only varies by less than 25% from the average. The Federal situation is much worse,

#6215 - 2018.02.18 Robin Tivy - AV (Alternative Vote) system is not well regarded by PV "Experts"
Today I went to the voting systems symposium posted by Barb Bradbury, in order to get my fair share of the views. The symposium was put on by "the Center for Election Science" (a US organization) and they then invited a collection of experts and other "fair vote" organizations like Fair Vote BC and various experts from universities. Here is a link so you can see who was there There is interest across the country in the outcome of this BC referendum, because BC could be an example for other provinces.

The symposium was a series of 3 main speeches, and then a panel of "experts" who would answer questions you were supposed to type into a website with your cell phone. There were a few interesting ideas, but mostly it was just preaching to the converted. I think few of these "experts" have spent much time having to argue with people who are against PR such as BC Liberals.

I never got a chance to ask my questions about their strategy for winning the actual referendum, and how to deal with BC Liberal arguments against change. But I did manage to engage a few of them in the breaks. I quickly verified that the "experts" are totally against AV and won't even consider it. It's PR or nothing. Their position is that an AV (alternative vote) system is a step backwards. One of their experts argued on and on that AV was worse than first past the post. When I asked, he said he would choose FPTP ahead of AV. He then tried to pull rank on me by saying he had lots of data that showed AV would be worse for the green party than FPTP.

Hows that? He gave some hypothetical explanation where the green gets in with FPTP, but if second alternatives were counted, the NDP would get in because all the BC Liberals would have NDP as their second choice. Fat chance. I tried to illustrate with logic that if people were not wasting their votes, even more would vote Green, and that there would then be at least be progress you could measure. But he just kept talking about his data. He was from Alberta and didn't really have a feel for BC. Anyway my conclusion is that trying to win these arguments by referring to academic data is bogus, because if you changed the system, everything would be different. The parties would campaign differently, people would vote differently.

I didn't think of it at the time, but I think another answer to the AV vs FPTP is that AV more accurately captures the will of the people, because it measures their second choice as well as first. I think that guy is falling into the same trap as the BC liberals fall into. Their analysis is simple: a good system is one where they win. He's doing the same thing - picking the system based on who he wants to win. Harper's strategy of only caring about his "core supporters" would not have prevailed under AV, because he'd be nobody's second choice. But unfortunately we have to realize that under either AV or PR there would not be an NDP premier in Alberta.

But above all the arguments for and against AV, it should not be excluded from the ballot. Let the voter decide that, don't try and rig the system.

I think he had little experience with vote splitting and strategic voting. He'd rather concentrate on PR than address what I think is the #1 problem. But that's his position. They hate AV because it's not PR. It's the "all or nothing" approach I was afraid of. It's my way or nothing at all. Hopefully, this group doesn't totally control what the referendum looks like or we are sunk.

No wonder Trudeau's electoral reform got nowhere - they had a mix of three inflexible groups:
  1. PR zelots and "experts", (it's PR or nothing)
  2. Conservatives (against any change)
  3. Trudeau Liberals (AV or nothing)

Such a committee was a bad idea from the start and never got anywhere. So Trudeau simply gave up. I think Trudeau blew it. He should have put somebody in charge whose mandate is to come up with a system. And then let us vote. Such a person could gather all the input they want from the various factions, but at the end of the day they have to deliver alternatives for the vote. While I prefer a PR system, I still think AV is a better system than FPTP. But on the other hand, if all three groups are of the opinion "My way or nothing" then you have to bypass them and go directly to the people.

I also received a lengthy email from the communications director of Fair Vote Canada who read my postings here. She stated that they are definitely against an "Alternative Vote" system, and sent their submission which says the same. Their submission is built around the idea of getting a "mandate" to go to proportional, because most people wouldn't understand the details.

In conclusion, trying to convince the "fair vote" people to even consider AV is a lost cause. However, even though AV itself is unlikely to win, I still think AV should be a choice on the referendum ballot. Just so we can rule it out. And I think the referendum ballot itself must allow us to show our prefernces. I think they should figure out the exact details of how tow or three systems would work and let us rank those alternatives. Here is an example of how I would vote:

  [4] First past the post
  [1] MMP Mixed member
  [2] Dual member proportional
  [3] AV Alternative Vote

However some of the "experts" want a 2 question ballot, with the first question being "Do you want PR", and the second question: what kind of PR.

#6199 - 2018.02.15 Barb Bradbury - BC Symposium on Proportional Representation in BC this Sunday.
There will be a symposium on Proportional Representation in BC this Sunday at the Vancouver Public Library

#6185 - 2018.02.07 Scott Nelson - instant runoff voting
I think a non-PR ranked ballot (instant runoff voting) as used by the Liberals for their leadership vote should be one of the options offered in the upcoming referendum on electoral reform. At the very least, that would lay bare the liberal hypocrisy. Have your say here:

#6183 - 2018.02.07 Robin Tivy - Exposing the True Position of the BC Liberals
In our arguments for proportional representation, I have experienced a flaw in what we are doing. In the typical arguments I've had, I run up against arguments like below:

 1. PR is bad because too many small parties
 2. Bad system because unstable governments
 3. Bad system because it will give all the power to Vancouver
 4. Bad system because you are asking me to endorse a "pig in a poke"

These arguments are hard to defeat quickly. Of course if you had enough time you might be able to defeat some of them. But people don't have that much patience. With so much miss-information around, people don't have time to sort thru what you are saying. And unfortunately for us PR enthusiasts, some of the arguments against PR actually have merit.

Don't answer those arguments on face value. Find the true objection. The real reason why many BC Liberals are against change is they fear it would diminish their power. Our job is to make transparent the real reason for being against change. The easiest way to make that clear is to say:

  OK, I see what you mean.
  A ranked ballot would answer your objections.
  Would you support a ranked ballot system?

Several systems can have ranked ballots, but for purposes of argument let's consider the crudest - the "alternative vote (AV) system with exactly the same ridings as we have right now. But people can express their second and third choices by ranking the candidates on the ballot. For example, my first choice might be Green, my second NDP and my third BC Liberal. To get elected, a candidate must have more than 50% support. If nobody has that on the first count, you eliminate the lowest and consider their second choice. Would you support that?

Now the anti-change person you are arguing with is in a tough position. Many BC Liberals are against any ranked ballot system as well as PR. Their true objection is to any system that would eliminate the vote splitting between Green and NDP. But how can he answer?

If we could only get some of them to join us, and admit that the present system of FPTP has some problems, then we could get people to debate intelligently the pros and cons of proportional versus ranked ballot. And not just spread confusion and false information about PR.

The problem I've encountered is that some of our PR supporters take the view "PR or nothing". They repeat stupid phrases like "Ranked ballot is like FPTP on Steroids". For that we deserve to lose. We've got to be more intelligent about the different systems. In order to defeat the BC Liberals arguments, we have to be willing to give people the choice of a ranked ballot system. We can't just say "It's either my way or no change at all". Remember: there actually are intelligent people who vote BC Liberal, and we've got to address their legitimate arguments. (Disclosure: I myself have voted BC Liberal in the election when the NDP campaigned to get rid of the carbon tax.) There are lots of intelligent BC Liberals, we just have to sell them on the idea that they would still have a future with a different electoral system.

My own preference is a PR system over ranked ballot, but the first goal is to get everybody to agree that FPTP has to be replaced.

#6179 - 2018.02.05 Robin Tivy - Wilkinson Wins BC Liberal Leadership, now must prevent change
As you know Andrew Wilkinson won the leadership of the BC Liberal party on Saturday. He must now prevent change to the voting system at all costs. He has said "The fight of our lives" is to prevent electoral change. His latest plan proposed today is to use the 'per vote' subsidy that all parties get, on advertising to defeat the referendum. As you know, the liberals, with the majority against them, MUST ensure that those votes remain divided. They must ensure the Green party remains "the tail that wags the dog". Because even in the last election, if it was proportional, there would be 16 Green MLA's. And the BC Liberals have shown no signs of ever wanting to work with anyone else.

Unfortunately, the people campaigning for change should pay close attention to terminology, and make sure they can discuss all alternatives, not just proportional. The strategy to defeat proportional representation will be to spread confusion, so nobody can even talk. We saw that yesterday in Wilkinson twisting the words "preferential" and "proportional" are. But before I get into that, let's get it straight ourselves.

The Liberal leadership race was based on a ranked ballot, which of course is better than first past the post. "Ranked" means that when you vote, you decide who your first choice is, your second choice, and son on. The dictionary says a "ballot" is a piece of paper on which a voter marks their choices. There is only one ballot for each person, but the ballots were processed in 5 "counts". After each count, the candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated, and their ballots were moved to one of the other piles, based on their 2nd vote. And so on, till somebody gets more than 50%. On the first count, Wilkinson was the first choice of substantially less people than Dianne Watts. Dianne Watts would be leader if the BC Liberals used the stupid "first past the post" system they force us to use. But as the lesser candidates were eliminated, it emerged that Wilkinson was the second choice of more people than Dianne Watts. So he won, which is the way it should be.

When the papers talk about how Wilkinson won on the "fifth ballot" they mean the fifth counting. Fifth ballot sounds like there were actually multiple ballots. I wish the newspapers would make it more clear to everybody how the voting actually worked, because that system would solve a lot of problems for BC as well.

Now back to the point about how you can confuse people by twisting the words: Yesterday, Green MLA Sonia Furstenau said Monday that it was ironic that Mr. Wilkinson is so critical (of voting reform), given he was elected through a preferential ballot. Wilkinson was quick to answer that if he had been elected on a proportional ballot they would have had 5 leaders, with only 20% support.

To most people speed reading the article, you might think they were talking about the same thing. But Wilkinson immediately jumped in with the clever response which talks about something completely different than a ranked ballot.

Was Sonia herself mixed up? Quite possibly, because I've met people campaigning for proportional representation that do not clearly understand that a ranked ballot would solve at least some of the problems with first past the post. It would get rid of vote splitting and the need for strategic voting. But some of the people campaigning for proportional representation take the approach "proportional or nothing".

The correct answer to Wilkinson is that nobody is suggesting any sort of system with 5 leaders. That's not the way a ranked system works, and it's not the way a proportional system works either. When we are talking about a simple ranked ballot in the general election, we mean that within each riding, you can rank the candidates. Sonia would have been better to use the term "ranked" ballot not "preferential". She should at least make the point that first past the post is a really stupid system, and either a ranked ballot or proportional system would be better.

But alas, Wilkinson scored his points unanswered. This is what we can expect from a clever lawyer.

If the liberals were really serious about improving democracy, but were uncertain about possible bad effects of proportional, then they should be campaigning for a ranked ballot. Not campaigning for no change at all. At least a ranked ballot solves the split vote problem. And doesn't have any possible side effects with too many small parties. Parties like the Green party would still gain traction because even where they lost, there would be results to show. Whereas right now, you can't measure results because most people including myself are forced to vote strategically. But of course Wilkinson and the liberal party would never endorse a ranked system for British Columbia either, because they would need to listen to other viewpoints, not just their core supporters. They would need to adjust their platform to earn people's second choice. They don't want to do that. Right now a large number of people would say their first choice was Green, second choice NDP and third BC Liberal. They don't want to have to adjust policies so a significant number of Greens would have Liberals as second choice.

What Wilkinson wants is to make sure those Green votes are mostly wasted votes, so the Greens only win in 3 ridings with 16% of the vote. And everybody has to "vote strategically" so you can't even tell how much support the Greens actually have. And pave the way for the BC Liberals to win elections without having to get anybody's second vote, and without having to listen to anybody else. And to make sure that those other parties not supported by wealthy donors do not have any voice.

Before it was outlawed by recent NDP-Green legislation, the BC Liberals and Wilkinson told us there was "no problem" with big corporations being the primary source of funding for political parties. River Rock Casino: donates to the party and somehow the party doesn't effectively shut down money laundering. But now that source of funds is cut off. But they still have a big war chest accumulated during past years. That war chest will be used for advertising, to spread arguments against voting reform. I have never heard any of them actually saying that the party has to learn to work with others. Good government means BC Liberals in complete control of everything, with nobody else having any funding or ability to question them.

On a more cheerful note, I hope you enjoyed as much as I did reading about the crash of the idiot Todd Stone. Fake Emails
 They all hire "campaign companies" to sign up members. But AggregateIQ went overboard with 1349 fake email addresses. I think the way it works is you get some names of real people who may not care much about anything, you "sign them up" and you give them a fake email. The fake emails were had fake domain names, so AggregateIQ can run the mail servers. These memberships could then be controlled by campaign staff since they control the fake emails. In the last liberal leadership race, this scam was widespread, and the campaign workers had "PIN parties" where the campaign staff would vote on behalf of hundreds of newly signed up members. Only trouble was a few of the hundreds actually showed up to vote, only to find a party member had already decided who they should vote for. But last election we never heard about it. But this time, Wilkinson and the gang saw it was working against them, so they blew the whistle.

Remember Todd Stone, the defender of democracy, promising the party he would be the best able to stop change in the election system? Yes, he's the defender of democracy all right. But the party is not stupid. Todd Stone didn't have the smarts to carry the battle against change. Wilkinson, the "Rhodes scholar" is a lot more formidable, which is why I've been on his case from the beginning.

#6168 - 2018.01.30 Robin Tivy - Fill out Government Questionnaire on Electoral Reform
As you may know, the B.C. Government has introduced legislation to hold a referendum in the fall of 2018, which will ask British Columbians to decide whether B.C. should keep its current voting system (First Past the Post) or move to a system of Proportional Representation.

The first step is to decide what the referendum itself should look like. Should the government just decide what they think is best alternative, or should there be multiple alternatives which we can rank to show our preference?

Various people are already at work trying to ensure that any referendum fails. So if you are interested in any reform, you may as well educate yourself and fill out the survey. They describe 5 choices:

  MMP (mixed member proportional),
  FTPT (First Past the Post).
At the very least, you should know what these are. Then they give you the survey which as 9 questions. Each question has several "options". The questions are numbered 1 to 9. Most are reasonably clear, although Question 8 is really bad. Everybody has different strategies for answering it. Here is my summary of the question:

"Please answer the following question to help us understand the choices you would like to see on the ballot."

  1. FPP and ONE proportional system
  2. FPP and more than one
  3. FPP and PR, with the specific voting system determined by legislation
Here is my guess as to what each of the choices means:
  1. Option 1 means the government would pick in advance one specific system. This might be bad because you lose the support of some people who would prefer a different flavor of PR.
  2. Option 2 means multiple choices. The question doesn't say if you get to rank your choice or you must choose only one of them. Of course if you had 5 choices and you could only choose one, it would split the vote for PR and defeat it. So I wouldn't choose this unless I could rank my choices.
  3. Option 3 C is what I call "pig in a poke" because you don't know what you are going to get. What you get would be "determined by legislation" Although some supporters of PR think this is good strategy because it avoids details I have already seen how avoiding details empowers the enemy. I heard a BC Liberal explaining that PR would be just result in the parties appointing a whole list of people all in Vancouver". What I want is sufficient choices on the referendum to be able to say to them: "If you are worried about that, you should rank something like Mixed Member Proportional as your first choice. In other words, have an answer for everybody. I think the referendum MUST spell out the choices and let people rank them. That makes sure that the enemy can't themselves define what PR means.

Fair Vote Canada recommends option 3, but I disagree with them. If I was doing the survey again, I'd skip question 8, and spell out in the open ended question 9 that I wanted to be able to rank my choices, including FPTP. I think the referendum ballot should have all the choices, and let us rank them according to our preference. That way nobody can say the government was rigging the system, or the government was picking a particular system just because they thought it was best for them. None of the alternatives are exactly the system I was thinking of, but all of them are better than the present FPTP. All of them reduce the need to do "strategic voting". There are only 8 essential questions. The 7th question is not a very good question, so some people just skip it. That's what I would have done had I known that in question 8 I could just write down what I think.

Following the 8 essential questions are some extra questions,which I also did.

#6167 - 2018.01.30 Robin Tivy - Liberal Leaders prevent change at all costs
This Saturday the BC Liberal party votes for their new leader. One after another, the leadership hopefuls try to outdo each other in how much they will resist any electoral reform. Wilkinson says its the "fight of our lives" to prevent any form of proportional voting. And the rest of the leadership hopefuls all go along. No one challenges that, because that's what the rank and file of the BC Liberal party believe.

The most absurd candidate is Todd Stone, the ex minister who was responsible for the botched "referendum" on transit, the outcome of which was to block transit. He has come out with the strongest against any reform. He says they won't even accept the two dollars per vote that all parties now get. And he calls electoral reform an "attack on democracy".

"I actually think what the Greens and the NDP have cooked up is the greatest single attack on our democracy in the history of this province" he says. See Attack on democracy.

He talks about the "sacred relationship" that people have with their MP. What about the thousands of people across the province who vote for the Green party? Do they have a sacred relationship with anyone, or just a wasted vote? Is there anyone in the legislature who received votes from them? With proportional representation, every vote counts, even if you are outnumbered in your own riding. Think of the Stikine where virtually all the logging is being shipped right out of the country as raw logs. Who represents the people in the north who disagree with that policy? Yet Todd Stone thinks it to be an "attack on democracy" if their vote actually counted somewhere.

The BC Liberals think the interests of rural BC are inherently for the BC Liberals to be in power. So any system that threatens to give anyone in the interior who votes against them is an attack on rural BC. They think the interests of the BC Liberals and the interests of everyone in rural BC are one and the same.

What the BC Liberals need now is a complete renewal. As you might know, the voting system they will use for their own leader is not a stupid first past the post system. It is a ranked ballot. Liberal party members will mark their first choice, second choice and so on. Ranked ballot does a better job of reflecting the will of the party because it ensures that ultimately the leader must have support for more than half the members. So when it comes to the province wide elections, why do they insist that we use such a stupid electoral system as first past the post.

Their are people in the BC Liberals who have some good ideas. So why are they putting all their eggs in thwarting electoral reform? It just undermines the party. Their position against any electoral reform is the stupidest thing since Wilkinson tried to tell us it didn't distort the system to have resource extraction companies, lottery firms and government contractors making large donations in return for government access.

What we need is an effective opposition party to the governing NDP/Green government, not a bunch of idiots trying to call electoral reform an "attack on democracy". Their reasons to block electoral reform are simple: they want to ensure split opposition. They want to ensure that they regain power even though most people vote against them. They want 100% of the power with 40% of the vote. They want to make sure the opposition to them has as little funding as possible.

Why doesn't a leader emerge from the smoking ruins of the BC Liberal "brand" and tell the party they really have to plan for a world where they actually have to listen to somebody else, instead of just drowning them out with their big advertising budget? Does the party have no thinking members?

#6135 - 2017.10.26 Steve Grant - Rural vs Urban
Then if the issue of rural voters having up to three times the representation of urban voters comes up, then the Liberals are sure to frame it as a rural vs urban outrage. While at the same time deliberately obfuscating the facts. The Liberals hold almost all BC's rural ridings.

The map Palmer mentioned shows that geographically the Liberals hold most of BC. Perhaps he and the Liberals need to be reminded our democracy is supposed to be "one person, one vote", not "one hectare, one vote".

#6132 - 2017.10.25 Steve Grant - Disparity in number of voters per riding
Both Robin and Palmer appear to overlook an important aspect of improving BC's voting system.

Though democracy is supposed to be based on "one person, one vote", in BC, with the intent being "fairness", some ridings have far more voters than others. Over three times, in one case. Rural voters have far more powerful votes than urban voters.

This is important in the context of proportional voting because "at-large" MLA's reduce those regional imbalances. And so would make the provincial popular vote resemble more closely the party seat count. Hard to see that as being less fair.

#6130 - 2017.10.23 Robin Tivy - Open letter to Vaughn Palmer (Vancouver Sun columnist)
Hello Vaughn Palmer,

I read your column in the Vancouver Sun dated October 20, 2017, where you pointed out that the Liberal leadership hopefuls are united in fighting electoral change. Vaughan Palmer: Liberal Leadership hopefuls united in fighting electoral change"

I believe you are correct that the old guard of the BC Liberals are against any electoral reform. But I think that your article should have done more to point out what is wrong with their position. In particular, their notion that any new system is stacked against the rural parts of BC.

"The fix is in," complains Mike de Jong. "They (the New Democrats) have decided, along with their junior partners in the Green Party, to impose a form of proportional representation that will not serve the interests of rural B.C."

That's just like saying that the present system was stacked against the cities, because most of the BC Liberals were mostly elected in rural ridings. It's not because the system was stacked, it is because that was the outcome. Neither the old system nor the new system is inherently "stacked". What's wrong with the old system is not that it is stacked. What is wrong is that "First past the post" does not reflect the will of the people as accurately as a proportional system. It results in too many wasted votes. Too many people see that their vote is wasted. The discussion should be about the system, not who might win or lose.

In particular, what is wrong with your article is that you repeat very clearly all their false arguments, and then seem to go along with them yourself. You reinforce their misleading ideas by saying the following:

"Taking that scenario as an outcome, there would be a dramatic reduction in local representation, particularly in the regions being placed on alert by Stone and the other Liberals. Currently the Interior and North are represented by 23 seats in the legislature. That contingent would be reduced to just 10 if the New Democrats were to impose federal riding boundaries on the province."

Your above statements are misleading. You fail to mention that the representation of the larger population centers would also be reduced by the same proportion of 23 to 10. For that to be true, you must be assuming that most of the "at large" members are from the cities. You need to point out that that is not necessarily so. Either political party has the choice over where their "at large" members would come from. The BC Liberals could appoint all of their "at large" candidates to be from rural areas. And then advertise that the opposition were all city dwellers, etc. And obviously that would mean the cities would have their representation reduced dramatically.

Your final statement deals partially with what I am saying, but the way it is worded it sounds like it would somehow give the NDP and Greens some some kind of advantage.

"Other regions of the province would lose local representation as well, of course. But New Democrats and their Green partners could readily be accused of not minding the reduction in local representation in the North and Interior, given that they hold only four seats there in the first place."

You talk about something called "reduction in representation in the north and interior" as if it is somehow a proven fact. As I have pointed out, this is not necessarily true. Do the math. In the new system, the BC Liberals could just as easily have all of their members from the rural areas. There is absolutely nothing that will necessarily reduce representation of any part of the province.

#6136 - 2017.10.22 Robin Tivy - Problems with "first past the post"
The problem with first past the post is people have no way of expressing their wish to get rid of a given party. This leads to people having to vote strategically. And in some ridings, guess how to vote strategically. Either a proportional system or a ranked ballot would do the job for them.

A key example of the "strategic voting" problem was the the last federal election. Many people wanted to get rid of the Harper government. But "first past the post" did not give them a mechanism to consolidate their opposition. So an organization called "Leadnow" was formed to set up a "vote pledging" system. They went door to door, got people to pledge their vote, then told people just before the election who to vote for strategically. Meanwhile even the campaign workers spent much of their time telling people how to vote strategically, rather than discuss issues. Both of the candidates that came to my door talked exclusively about strategic voting.

The strategic voting worked, since Harper was defeated, but now Trudeau has a "false majority". Many people that voted for him only did so strategically.

#6134 - 2017.10.22 Robin Tivy - Old Guard BC Liberals are against it because they would have to change
It seems the BC Liberals have decided they are vehemently against any and all changes to the election system.. Their current strategy is to obscure the issue by talking about rural versus urban voters. They ignore that there were thousands of rural voters who voted against them, and whose votes are without representation. For example, there is nobody in the legislature who owes any allegiance to the thousands of people in the Kootenay area who voted for the green party. There is no representative in the legislature who represents any of the thousands of people across the north who don't agree with BC Liberal policies. Instead, the BC Liberals carry on as if they are the sole representatives of the north.

Furthermore, the BC Liberals ignore the fact that in the last legislature, the government was almost entirely concentrating on the issues important to their rural supporters and ignoring pressing issues important to the cities. Now their strategy is to act as if they represent the land itself. And then tell people how to think about the referendum - repeat after me: "proportional representation is bad for the north", that's all you need to know.

Changing the issue is a common strategy in referendums. For example, the transit funding referendum was warped by turning it into some other issue.

See the following article in the Vancouver Sun from 2017 October 20th Vaughn Palmer: Liberal leadership hopefuls united in fighting electoral changes.

One might wonder why the Liberals have decided they must be against it. "The fight of our Lives" says leadership hopeful Andrew Wilkinson.

Why is it "the fight of their lives"? Why is it that they think they could not be elected in a new system? The back room boys of the Liberal party are not stupid. They know that what kept them in power in the past. Their power came from the money they got from big corporations paying to get preferential treatment. ("pay to play"). And from a flawed election system.

But then the New York times entered the argument with that historic article calling BC "the wild west of political financing". That one article seemed to change everything. Yet they stuck to their arguments right to the end, when they took a hit in the actual election. So they lost that one.

The next line of defense was to oppose any public financing of political parties (the $2.50 per voter "subsidy"). Better to have a system where the wealthy are the ones who finance political parties. They try to frame that argument with the false analysis that "public money shouldn't be spent on political parties". As if that was true. They lost that.

So now they are laying the groundwork for their false analysis regarding election change.

Why do they do this? Because if election did a better job of measuring their support, they would need to change to get more support. Their past policies did not have the support of the majority of voters. To avoid changing those policies, they MUST oppose any system that might better measure the will of the people. That's why it's "the fight of their lives".

They must oppose proportional representation. They also must oppose other alternatives such as a ranked ballot system, where voters would indicate their second choices as well as first.

They fear that the majority elected will turn out to be against them. After all, under a proportional system, there would be 16 seats going to the Green party. They MUST make sure such a party does not get significant power. They must make sure they get as little funding as possible.