30 April 2009

Nirvana's Novoselic: BC-STV could be "shot heard around the continent"

In a telephone interview today with the Georgia Straight, Nirvana bassist Krist Novolesic spoke of the importance of British Columbians voting for BC-STV.
"This is an opportunity, a rare opportunity, for British Columbia voters to impact American politics... If you vote yes for single transferable vote, that's the shot heard around the continent, OK? I'm serious. People can say, 'They passed it in British Columbia. They're using it in British Columbia'.

"One of the biggest barriers to participation is the single-member district."

Novolesic is coming to BC! On May 1st, he'll be joining BC-STV spokesperson and Citizens' Assembly alumnus Shoni Field at a STV forum to be held at UBC Robson Square, starting at 7:30 p.m.

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LIVE Webcast NOW from UVic: Panel on BC-STV

Go here. That's it. Go. Listen. Learn.

ETA: Well that was fun! Especially the at the end when people were told the results from their mock FPTP and BC-STV elections.

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FPTP Camp Makes a Confession

Just received from the head office of the BC-STV campaign, sent out to its massive number of volunteers:

Chrystal --

I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you. On Monday I e-mailed you a sneak preview of our new 30 second TV ad which is now on the air: www.stv.ca/fairresults.

I challenged you to help us buy as much air time as possible - and the response was overwhelming. In fact, as many of you noticed, the response was so big it shut down our entire website for over an hour! However, once we got the website back up and running (with added capabilities!) you started contributing online, on the phone and in the mail - and we hit our target of putting a 10% dent in the gap between us and our opponents, by raising $23,515.

On Tuesday morning they were ahead by $225,000 on the TV airwaves. By now, that gap is likely under $200,000 and we still have them beat on the ground and 12 days until election day to catch them on the air.

Today we had verification directly from our opponents that they are simply trying to buy a victory, since they have no real grassroots support. In a candid and cynical message responding to an angry first-past-the-post supporter wondering why their campaign had no presence, No-STV President Bill Tieleman wrote:

"The Yes STV side has a great many volunteers organized for the past several years through Fair Voting BC. No STV has approached the referendum completely differently and is putting almost all resources into television, radio and print advertising - TV starts today. We do not have lawn signs and you will not see any this campaign unless individuals make their own, which would be great. But the Yes STV side has spent an awful lot of their money on leaflets, signs, offices, staff, etc., more than half of their $500,000 government funding. We believe we can reach far more people through advertising and our website."

It's sad really. They don't believe in people power and seem to think campaigning in communities is a waste of time and money. We know they’re wrong. Thousands of people are signing up to help our campaign, telling their friends and families about STV, taking the 15,000 lawn signs we've delivered across the province, and donating to help close the gap on the airwaves.

Many thanks to those who have already donated so generously! I appreciate your understanding of why we continue reach out to you as well as the growing list of new supporters who sign up every day.

I hope you appreciate this update, because what we are accomplishing together is truly amazing!

All my best,

Roy Ball
Vice President, Fair Voting BC

PS: If you haven't contributed or want to do more you can still help bridge the gap by donating securely online at www.stv.ca/fairresults.


Never have I been part of such an exciting political campaign! It's attracting a vast diversity of people, who are all coming together in support of this single cause. It's truly inspiring and I feel privileged to be part of it.

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Telling Early Moment May Top LPC Convention

John Turner: "This party will not be rebuilt from the top down... This party has to be rebuilt from the bottom up... I believe riding-by-riding is how this party should be reconstructed, how this country should be run."

Then turning to the crowned-by-inner-circle Michael Ignatieff: "Not to have a candidate, Mr. Leader, appointed from the top down but elected from the bottom up... I don't want to see any leader-appointed candidates across the country."

According to reports the crowd erupted on hearing Turner's challenge.

Later, it was Ignatieff's turn: "I want to open nominations in every riding… but I cannot abandon the prerogative of a leader to make those appointments that I deem necessary... I want to make it clear, I want to use the power of appointment as rarely as I possibly can... I respect the grassroots of this party and I know I can’t rebuild the party unless it is from the bottom up."

Yes, Turner's challenge is about leadership. But the best leaders are those who lead from behind, who trust and encourage others to do their best. Where is the "we" in any of the above?

Is this still the Liberal Party of Canada? Or is it now the Liberal Party of Ignatieff?

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Funnies from the Pro-FPTP Side

Can't believe some of the silly arguments being put out by the pro-FPTP camp.

I just sent the following...

In a letter to this paper (STV system isn't what people want, April 29), J Sharpe wrote "if this system was really what people wanted, then surely we would see much more support for it from mainstream parties, industry, and unions."

The "people" to which Sharpe refers vote. Mainstream parties, industry and unions do not.

The insiders and power-brokers within these large lobby groups fear losing their control over British Columbia's legislature. And while they do control it, individual citizens who aren't represented by any of these groups or British Columbians who disagree with the agenda or political direction of their industry's leaders, union bosses or party insiders, get the shaft.

As for this question, "What if I refused to make any choice but my first choice? Does that mean it is a spoiled ballot?", the answer is No.

The brochure produced by the neutral Elections BC and distributed by mail to British Columbians the last week of April make this point clear: "Voters rank as many candidates as they wish, in order of preference (1, 2, 3, etc.). At least a first choice must be indicated for the ballot to be valid."

Perhaps Sharpe got the notion of voters being forced to choose more than one candidate on a BC-STV ballot from members of the pro business-as-usual camp.

Chrystal Ocean

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STV a Logical Step in Evolution of Democracy

The following was sent off to the editors of the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Cowichan Valley Citizen and the Cowichan NewsLeader. Whether it will get published to those media outlets, we don't know.* In the meantime, here it is, written from the perspective of an Irish-Canadian unassociated with the BC-STV campaign.


STV or Proportional Representation (PR) is just another logical step in the evolution of democracy and in historical terms, will be viewed much like allowing women the vote or the reduction of the voting age to eighteen.

If one looks at the newly emerging democracies around the world - South Africa, the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies, Hungary and many other countries - this progression is clearly evident.

It is greatly to the credit of the current BC legislature that they have agreed to revisit the work of the Citizens' Assembly that brought forward this suggested system and it is a historic opportunity that we as voters should use to vote a resounding Yes to.

I grew up under a PR system in Ireland and saw first hand how this was a more democratic system. One did not have to "hold your nose" and vote for the better of two bad choices or risk wasting your vote. In Ireland it has also given small or new parties a voice. For example, the Greens currently hold the balance of power in Government; a historical first.

With this system you can vote your conscience first and your next best choice can be a candidate you can live with.

Under larger ridings you will always have a representative in government to work for your region and interests and on whose door you can knock, unlike today where you may not have a MLA for 20 or more years.


Frank Ryan


* We have noticed a huge disparity between the number of unique online comments pro-STV vs. those pro-FPTP. The latter often try to fill out their numbers by numerous comments by the same person. Still STV supporters outnumber the FPTP camp by at least six times. Whereas in print it's consistently one letter published for STV, another published against STV. Thus, British Columbians aren't getting a sense, at least through their print media, of the support for STV on the ground.

The other side rarely 'fesses up to the fact that essentially they're backing the status quo. Yet there are TWO electoral systems on the referendum ballot: FPTP and STV, not NOT STV and STV.

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Agricultural Policies Increase Swine Flu Risk

Two items in today's news point to factory farming - born and fostered by our rampant consumption and others' greed - as the chief cause of outbreaks like swine flu. From Macleans:
The Mexican press is reporting that locals in the hometown of Edgar Hernandez, the four-year-old boy who may be the first person to have caught the illness, say a pig farm is to blame. The town is home to a Confined Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) that is 50 per cent owned by Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest fresh pork and packaged-meat company in the United States. Residents claim that the flies that swarm in the CAFO’s open-air lagoons where the pig manure is stored have caused a high rate of respiratory infection in the town.

Reports of illness in the community have long gone unreported, as Blind Man With A Pistol so eloquently points out in this post. Why, he asks, have so very few articles taken up the cause of the Mexican victims or reflected "the grief shared by the affected communities"?

We must curb consumption. We must change our agricultural policies, such as those in BC, if we are to reduce the risk of widescale outbreaks.

In a media release issued today, the BC Greens make this point, stressing the importance of policies that encourage, not discourage, small-scale, local, organic food production.
“All a pathogen like swine flu needs in order to mutate into a dangerous form is overcrowded conditions. Genetic uniformity found in most industrial agriculture, makes the process more rapid,” said Wayne Osborne, BC Greens’ candidate in the Parksville-Qualicum....

“Agricultural policies that restrict traditional methods have increased the crowding of hogs and poultry. Industrial-grown animals are so genetically uniform, they might as well be clones. For health reasons, we need to move away from large-scale operations that create disease conditions and re-introduce genetic diversity into our food supply."

BC Greens’ Agriculture Critic and candidate in Nanaimo, Dirk Becker added, “This is a prime example of what is wrong with our system on a grand scale - where the health and safety of humans and animals aren’t the most important things, but rather short-term profit.

“Animals are more than just a commodity, and their food and living conditions help them to develop natural resistance to sickness and disease. That includes breeding to maintain genetic diversity, so that when there is disease, only a portion of a population is affected. This current outbreak is not only to be expected, but inevitable when you use such unnatural means of meat production, breeding only the biggest, fastest-growing pigs for rapid profit.”

No one is saying that small-scale farming is devoid of risks. Anything humans do comes with risk, especially where profit comes into play. But certainly supporting local food production reduces risk.

We must move to change our agricultural policies NOW.

Ergo, in this provincial election vote accordingly.

And vote for BC-STV. Only with a system which properly reflects voters' concerns can undercut the moneyed interests which ultimately control our current politics.

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29 April 2009

VIDEO for BC-STV - Help Give it Air Time! - P2

UPDATE - We're close to half our goal for getting the Fair Results ad on several different television programs. Please DONATE if you haven't already. (And if you have and can manage it, donate again!)

You can help put this advertisement on the air and help reach out to voters across the province. The more people know about BC-STV, the more they like it!

Example costs to run a 30 second ad:

Local TV

Evening News in Terrace, $105
Late News in Kamloops, $135

Daytime TV

Oprah, $891
Jeopardy, $920
Dancing With the Stars in Victoria, $1320

Primetime and Playoff Advertising!

BCTV Newshour, $2,430
NHL Playoffs, $2,730

Learn more or donate to the STV campaign today!

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Waving Wednesday - April 29 AM - Duncan

We had our first Waving Wednesday event this morning, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., down at the Trans Canada Highway overpass just south of the Silver Bridge near Duncan.

Here's the report from Sandy McPherson, our boundlessly energetic lower mid-island volunteer coordinator.
Many thanks to Marilyn, Anne, Jo, Alan, Susan and especially Randy our "Awesome Sign Guy" who made modifications to the yard signs for easy waving.

We had waves and honks too numerous to count. All in all a really positive and motivating experience.

Way to go, team!

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Prohibition Doesn't Work

Do Cannabis Rehabilitation Centers exist? Where does one purchase marijuana over-the-counter cessation aids? Are there any directly medically related deaths linked to marijuana usage alone? What about traffic fatalities or brawls where pot only is inhaled?

A member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) makes some interesting comparisons between alcohol and cannabis in this article.
We at LEAP are current and former cops and other criminal justice practitioners who have witnessed firsthand the futility and manifold injustices of the drug war.

It is the prohibition of drugs that leads inexorably to high rates of death, disease, crime, and addiction.

It is high time to re-think, re-tool and re-invent the way society deals with marijuana.

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28 April 2009

Tales from the Trail

The pro-FPTP campaigners would have you believe that BC-STV is confusing and complicated. Well, these women got it with little trouble. In fact, within five minutes.

From one of our local volunteers.
I had a really good session this morning with moms and some older women. They got it without difficulty and asked some really good questions.

They all wanted to know about the count, so I tried something new and think it worked well.

First I said, "Just relax; it's not complicated. In less than five minutes, you will all understand the count. If you can understand two simple divisions, for example, 4/2 and 2/4, you will understand the count."

So then I went on to how to determine the quota (number of ballots, divided by number of MLAs, + 1).

One mother said, "Okay that's the 4/2 part right?"

"Yes," I said.

Then I explained the transfer value determination using the loonie example, (number of surplus votes, divided by total votes).

Another mother said "That's the 2/4 part that gives a fraction to be spent on my second choice, right?"

Quite a few shrugged their shoulders and said, "Well that's not hard."

Nope, not hard at all. What the pro-FPTP camp claims to have so much trouble understanding, British Columbians like these young mothers are grasping with a shrug of their shoulders.

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New BC-STV VIDEO Explains it in 30 Seconds

But according to proponents of the status quo, the BC version of the Single Transferable Vote is "complicated" and "confusing."

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Woh, ho! Another Catch for BC-STV?

From Public Eye Online
Former federal Liberal campaign co-chair Mark Marissen said today he hasn't decided how to vote in the upcoming provincial referendum on electoral reform. But, when contacted by Public Eye about rumours he would be voting in favour of the single-transferable vote system, Mr. Marissen quipped, "The biggest reason to support it is who's opposing it."

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VIDEO for BC-STV - Help Give it Air Time!

You can help put this advertisement on the air and help reach out to voters across the province. The more people know about BC-STV, the more they like it!

Example costs to run a 30 second ad:

Local TV

Evening News in Terrace, $105
Late News in Kamloops, $135

Daytime TV

Oprah, $891
Jeopardy, $920
Dancing With the Stars in Victoria, $1320

Primetime and Playoff Advertising!

BCTV Newshour, $2,430
NHL Playoffs, $2,730

Learn more or donate to the STV campaign today!

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27 April 2009

Live Webcam: Eagles' Nest, Hornby Egg Hatched

One more to go. Updates 1 (Apr 26) and 2 (today) below.

Third update: To add wide-angle view for Hornby nest.


Now that's prime real estate! 'Tis beautiful to watch and listen to life from an eagle's perspective. Be patient, takes a few seconds to connect to the live sights and sounds. The eagles don't leave their eggs alone for longer than a few seconds, so if you don't see one of the parents brooding, wait; you'll have the pleasure of seeing one flying in for a landing.

Third egg of Sidney family is due to hatch April 13th. Hornby eggs (two) are due to hatch April 26th.

Hornby camera - This one provides the best close-up. However, at this location, someone is in the habit of sawing dead trees all day long. Poor eagles!

NB: Eaglet has "fowled" this close-up camera (again). See below for the wide-angle view instead.

Wide-angle Hornby camera:

Sidney camera:

UPDATE Apr 26: Hornby eggs about to hatch. Chirps being heard. Eggs cracked. The Sidney eaglets are between one and three weeks old now - eldest is three, middle one hatched a couple of days later, then there's the young 'un.

UPDATE 2 Apr 27: One eaglet hatched. Only a few hours old. Soooo cute. Little thing can't sit up and keeps falling over on its back or face.

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Live Webcam: Eagles' Nest, Eggs about to be Hatched

UPDATE 2: One eaglet hatched. Only a few hours old. Soooo cute. Little thing can't sit up and keeps falling over on its back or face.

UPDATE: Hornby eggs about to hatch. Chirps being heard. Eggs cracked. The Sidney eaglets are between one and three weeks old now - eldest is three, middle one hatched a couple of days later, then there's the young 'un.
Now that's prime real estate! 'Tis beautiful to watch and listen to life from an eagle's perspective. Be patient, takes a few seconds to connect to the live sights and sounds. The eagles don't leave their eggs alone for longer than a few seconds, so if you don't see one of the parents brooding, wait; you'll have the pleasure of seeing one flying in for a landing.

Third egg of Sidney family is due to hatch April 13th. Hornby eggs (two) are due to hatch April 26th.

Hornby camera - This one provides the best close-up. However, at this location, someone is in the habit of sawing dead trees all day long. Poor eagles!

Sidney camera:

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26 April 2009

Reactions to All Candidates Meeting Cowichan Valley

There was an ACM held locally on April 25th. I was unable to attend, since the venue was too far to get to on foot. So I started asking around: Did BC-STV come up? How did the candidates do generally? How were they received by the audience?

The following is the response from one person who attended the meeting.
STV did not come up ... This was an ACM for nonprofits, which was to look at how the different party platforms would help to make non profits sustainable in the long term and how to remedy the current crisis in the health, child and housing sectors.

My impressions:
... the NDP candidate Bill Routley (no relation to Doug, by the way), answered every question with a rant against the Campbell government and the money they spent on the Olympics and how they ruined the forestry industry.
... the Liberal candidate Cathy Basskin did attempt to answer some of the questions but felt compelled also to respond to Routley's rant, thus negating her credibility with the audience.
...the Refederation candidate Michial Moore is a nice guy and was clearly out of his depth.
...the Green candidate Simon Lindley answered all the questions succinctly and with facts and solutions. I was at the back of the room for part of the debate and was encouraged to see lots of heads nodding when he spoke. In my opinion Simon Lindley took the debate hands down. Some NDP supporters were overheard to say that "Bill blew it" and other undecided that they were now voting Green.

The respondent is not known to be a regular Green supporter, which makes the observations all the more interesting.

ETA - Just in from another person who attended the ACM:
I was very impressed with Simon Lindley. Best of the lot I thought. STV never came up. We weren't allowed to distribute pamphlets.

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Local Green Candidate Endorsed by Dr. Helen Caldicott

... a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and international anti-nuclear activist. Writes Dr. Caldicott,
The Cowichan Valley is extremely fortunate to have a well informed candidate who is prepared to address the daunting environmental challenges faced by Canadians both locally and nationally.... The planet is at a critical juncture, at a time when we either embark on a journey of sustainability and true prosperity or we bequeath our children’s futures to the backwaters of our failures. I heartily endorse Simon Lindley as your next MLA."

Dr. Caldicott is recognized as the world’s leading expert on nuclear energy and the problems it poses to our health and environment. She is best remembered for the Academy Award winning 1982 Canadian documentary “If You Love This Planet”.

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25 April 2009

Libby Davies to Vote BC-STV

Just picked up on Twitter. Here's the source, from Libby Davies' own hand, written to her blog today:
The bottom line? People say to me - this is the best chance we have to get democratic electoral reform through, now and not in the distant future, especially as the last referendum was so close. This is a good point. Like many, I want change - progressive change - and I want to see the cynicism that people feel about politics and the political process change too. Not that STV will answer all that - it won't. But maybe it’s a first step to affirm change brought forward by citizens, not political parties.

So here I am, in answer to all the questions about my position - I can't duck it any longer. I'm voting YES to STV. I'm a bit of a reluctant comer to it and I’ve got my issues about it. But I've come to the conclusion that it’s the right thing to do.

Thank you, Ms. Davies. Your support means a lot.

Have readers been counting? That's five NDP MPs from BC who have come out in support of STV so far: Denise Savoie, Jean Crowder, Alex Atamanenko, Don Davies and now Libby Davies.

Now how 'bout those provincial NDP candidates who are running in this election? Or have they been muzzled?

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Iceland Taking a Left Turn

... or at least it looks that way. The Social Democrats and their coalition partners, the Left Greens, are together garnering 55.2 percent of the vote in today's election.

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Good News for BC Greens

... although Jonathan Fowlie, of the (surprise!) Canwest News Service, disagrees. Apparently, he and his editors can't count.

Reporting on an Ipsos Reid poll, which was taken between April 20th and 23rd, Fowlie concludes that Jane Sterk and the Greens are having "similar troubles" to the others.

Not so. From his own article, we learn
37 per cent of voters said the campaign has so far lowered their impression of [Carole] James and the NDP, while 34 per cent said the same of [Gordon] Campbell and the Liberals. By contrast, 17 per cent of voters said their impression of James and the NDP has improved during the campaign, while only 12 per cent said the same of Campbell and the Liberals.

Applying basic arithmetic, we can see what these numbers mean.
  • James and the NDP: 17 - 37 = -20
  • Gordo and the Libs: 12 - 34 = -22
How do Jane Sterk and the Greens fair? Let's consult Fowlie's report again:
Twelve per cent of people in the poll said the campaign has given them a better impression of Sterk and her party, while 10 per cent said their opinion has worsened.

From these facts, Fowlie concludes "Green Leader Jane Sterk is having similar troubles" to the other leaders.


Mr. Fowlie, Mr. Fowlie; here, let me lay it out for you:
  • James and the NDP: 17 - 37 = -20
  • Gordo and the Libs: 12 - 34 = -22
  • Sterk and the Greens: 12 - 10 = 2
The Greens are the only ones on the plus side and substantially ahead of the next in line, the NDP who are at sub-20. How is that "similar"?

Speaking to these results, Sterk has surprised me. My impression of her prior to this election was not good. Since the election began, several events have got my attention and caused a re-evaluation. Will be interesting to see how the rest of the election unfolds.

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BC-STeVe Reaches New Heights

... literally.

Clearly, the enthusiasm of some supporters of BC-STV (or BC-STeVe if you prefer) has no bounds.

H/t twitterer FairVoteCanada.

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24 April 2009

This Sounds Familiar - Exclusion of Leader in Debates

In a telephone interview with the Georgia Straight, deputy leader of the BC Greens, Damian Kettlewell, told the interviewer:
We’re being kept out of debates on Global TV right now, we’re being kept out of morning debates on Global News, and we’re not included on the Voice of B.C. tonight [April 23] with Vaughn Palmer.... There is a bias by some folks, and we need to change that.

Welcome to the world of Canwest Media. Voter choice be damned. Democracy be damned.

The NDP and Liberals must be happy about this situation. At least, they've not protested at the unfairness of it, unlike Liberal candidate Ron Cantelon who said he wouldn't attend a debate unless the Green candidate was included. Which rather shows up his party leader, doesn't it, one Gordon Campbell.

As for NDP leader Carole James and her purportedly inclusive party, what can one say?

Still, in terms of Greens being 'allowed' to participate in this election on an equal playing field, they aren't being shut out everywhere:
CBC's Wayne Williams, spokesperson for the upcoming leadership debate hosted by CBC, CTV, and Global, told the Straight that B.C. Green party leader Jane Sterk is scheduled to participate in the May 3 event. He said that the decision to include Sterk was based on the number of candidates the Greens are fielding and on the party's performance in the last provincial election.

A reasonable person might think such criteria would be applied by all media outlets. But that would ignore the real reason for elections: to establish governments which will bend to the whims of big business or big labour. Let the rest of us who are not represented by either of those interests be damned.

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Boost in Voter Turnout for this ELECTION?

... or is the reason for the increase in voter registration more to do with the referendum on electoral reform? That would be my guess and if that's true, then you can bet a certain number of the newcomers are registering to vote for BC-STV, not to retain the current system.

It wouldn't make sense otherwise. That is, if you're registering so you can vote in the referendum, and not necessarily to vote for a candidate, then you won't be doing it because you want to retain a system which likely turned you off in the first place.

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Oh, my! What a sweet little place

... and in my favourite colour to boot.

Looks like someone's former tool shed. I go by little buildings like that all the time. They're usually dilapidated and unused. If only people would think to fix them up and rent them out at affordable prices!

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23 April 2009

NDP candidates diverting from message?

Twice in two days there has been word of a NDP candidate whose message has diverted from the one issuing from Carole James.

Yesterday, during the CKNW leaders debate, a caller said NDP candidate Steve Gunner for the riding of Shuswap spoke of needing to have both a carbon tax and a cap and trade system - which suggests he disagrees with the party's Axe the Tax campaign.

Today comes a report that NDP candidate Pat Zanon, Surrey-Tynehead, isn't "sure the government’s new plan to demolish the existing Port Mann Bridge in favour of an all-new 10-lane 'super bridge' makes sense" and instead "favours a 'time out' to re-examine the Port Mann crossing." Which puts her at odds with leader Carole James who is on record as being first against, and now in favour of, the Port Mann bridge.

Either these candidates are unaware of the NDP leadership's position or they're breaking ranks and speaking for themselves. If it's the latter, good for them!

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Conservation Voters of BC Endorse STV and

... "Anybody but Carole" for the riding of Victoria Beacon-Hill. To those not in the know, that's Carole James, leader of the BC NDP.
As leader, the decision to position the NDP campaign against world-leading climate policies while not putting forward improvements or better alternatives is on her shoulders. We do not endorse Carole James for re-election.

Due to the New Democrats’ failure to be leaders in promoting real solutions to global warming we cannot endorse any NDP incumbents that were members of this past caucus. We believe the party needs new leadership and new voices that take a more urgent, principled and collaborative approach to meeting the challenges of climate change.

Of BC-STV, Conservation Voters of BC say this:
Modifying the electoral system will provide increased opportunity for a multiplicity of voices in the legislature and multi-party, collaborative solutions to climate change and other environmental challenges.

Yep. Sounds about right.

Other endorsements are Damian Kettlewell (Green Party – Vancouver Falsecreek), Barry Penner (Liberal – Chilliwack-Hope), Lana Popham (NDP – Saanich-South) and Gary Holman (NDP – Saanich North and the Islands).

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22 April 2009

Anything the Irish Can Do, British Columbians Can Do Too

The following appears in today's print edition of the Cowichan NewsLeader. No online version of the original article is available.

Dear Editor:

After reading Patrick Hrushowy's column (STV will add to confusion of voting, government), I didn't know whether to laugh out loud or scream. I ended up doing both. How stupid does Hrushowy think British Columbians are?

No one arguing in support of the Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) is claiming it will correct everything that is wrong with our politics and government. However, changing the way we elect our MLAs is one crucial, giant step. Unlike the current first-past-the-post voting system, BC-STV will encourage more co-operation among candidates, MLAs and parties and therefore produce a less fractious political atmosphere. That, in turn, could result in more work getting done to produce policy which aligns with the values of the voting majority, not those of a minority comprised of elite special interests.

Nor will BC-STV "force an over-empowering of fringe political parties." First, how many fringe parties does Hrushowy know that can run candidates in every electoral district and have the money to fund ambitious campaigns? Second, each candidate in a BC-STV electoral district must achieve a minimum number of votes to be elected. For example, if a total of 10,000 votes are cast in an electoral district for which four MLAs are to be chosen, each of the four winning candidates must receive at least 2,001 votes. That's a lot of votes for a fringe candidate to earn.

Finally, Hrushowy calls BC-STV "complicated" and decries the "mind bending confusion" that will befall us should we choose it over the status quo. The Irish have been using STV for almost 100 years. Is he suggesting that British Columbians can't do what the Irish can?

Chrystal Ocean

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Response to Globe: You're out to (an expensive) lunch

Uncertain? Confused? No way
Vancouver - I fail to see how the 58-per-cent vote in favour of STV (single transferable vote) in B.C. in 2005 shows "uncertainty and confusion" on the electorate's part (Mixed PR Is Best - editorial, April 21). It seems quite definitive to me. Perhaps the MMP (mixed member proportional) system is the one that gives rise to uncertainty, as it was soundly rejected by the voters of Ontario.

After 11 months of study, public consultation and debate, 95 per cent of the members of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform recommended STV over first-past-the-post because it best meets the needs of the citizens of British Columbia.

To suggest that we have a referendum on the Assembly's second choice (as redesigned by The Globe editorial board) is ridiculous.

Jill Reilly, Member, B.C. Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform

Seems like British Columbians, smart as they are, take exception to idiots at "Canada's national newspaper" who have such trouble with the concept of a system which combines proportionality, local representation and voter choice.

Why should we accept the Globe editorial board's conception of what an electoral system should be, rather than the recommendation of 160 fellow citizens who intensively studied electoral systems for a year, held 50 public meetings and poured over 1640 written presentations submitted by people from across our province?

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Over 70 Leading Educators Endorse BC-STV

All cite fair and accountable government as reasons for their support

Vancouver, B.C. - An impressive list of educators and specialists in democratic reform are joining the momentum to bring a new way of voting to BC that will restore faith in the electoral process. In universities across the province, leading academics are choosing BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote) as the best way for British Columbian voters to get the MLAs they want.

"There is a remarkable level of support among political scientists at all major universities and colleges in B.C.," says Dr. Blaize Reich of the Simon Fraser University Segal Graduate School of Business. "These are the people who have dedicated their lives to understanding how democracy works and how political systems engage citizens. Their ringing endorsement of STV is in sync not only with the Citizens’ Assembly but with voters across the province who want their voices heard."

"STV will give the citizens of BC a political process that is more deliberative, inclusive, and smart," says Dr. Mark Warren, political science professor at the University of British Columbia and Merilees Chair for the Study of Democracy. "It will deliver the kind of government that a complex, growing, and sophisticated province such as BC needs and deserves."

"Under the current first-past-the-post system, a political party can win 100 percent of the power with as little as 40 per cent of the vote," says Dr. Dennis Pilon, professor of political science at the University of Victoria. "With BC-STV, voters can finally end the era of 'hold-your-nose-and-vote' and win a fair way of electing a government that truly represents the will of the popular vote."

Dr. Norman Ruff, associate professor emeritus of political science at the University of Victoria and a keen observer of B.C. politics agrees. "If you really want to put power in the hands of the individual voter and make elections candidate-based, then BC-STV is the best system. I think accountability and trust are on people’s minds. There is an argument to be made that, here and now in B.C. politics, BC-STV is worth trying."

These are four notable voices in a long list of educators and British Columbians from all walks of life who are endorsing BC-STV. See complete list of educators.

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Comparing Campaigns: BC-STV, Charlottetown Accord

Peter Ewart reflects on the grassroots campaign in 1992 which defied politicians, their party advisers and the media moguls, who worked to cajole and scare Canadians into accepting their view of the way things ought to be, i.e., to accept the Charlottetown Accord. Ewart compares the Canada-wide grassroots opposition, driven by citizens seeking to wrest power from the elites and to guide their country's course themselves, to that he is seeing in BC now on the issue of electoral reform.
The Charlottetown Accord was supposed to have formed the basis of a new Canadian Constitution.

This Accord was cooked up behind closed doors by the Prime Minister of the day, Brian Mulroney, and the provincial premiers, with the support of the opposition parties. It was all supposed to be a “slam dunk,” with voters meekly falling into line and rubberstamping the Accord that, as the political leaders claimed, would “save Canada.”.

But what a miscalculation it was. From the beginning, people felt that the process was anti-democratic and elitist. In its arrogance and haste, the federal government hadn’t even bothered to make sure that copies of the Accord were in the hands of voters in a timely fashion....

Sound familiar?

But Canadians were going to have none of it. They fought back against the presumptions of the few who thought they could foist their vision on the many, an entire population:
Meetings and debates were organized in hundreds of cities. On the “no” side, enthusiastic volunteers wrote up literature, and just as quickly photocopied and widely distributed it. They hit the streets and organized countless public debates, kitchen meetings and other events. Above all, they engaged people in discussion, educating them about the positions of both the “yes” and “no” sides, and providing analysis, so that people could make an informed decision.

The “yes” side ... had few volunteers. Instead, it mainly relied on a blizzard of glossy and expensive ads in newspapers, radio and television, and a bunch of sleek politicians warning of “chaos” and “the break up of Canada” unless the Accord was adopted.

The techniques used by the Yes and No campaigns spoke glaringly of the class differences, which is highlighted in this vignette:
In the course of the referendum campaign, I remember staffing an information table for the “no” side with a couple of others in an open area of a large shopping mall in Southern Ontario. Our table was directly across from the “yes” side table....

All of our campaign finances had come from volunteers, and there wasn’t a lot. Thus our information table had been thrown together with a couple of borrowed card tables and an old tablecloth. Our signs and banners were hand drawn with magic markers. Although our campaign literature had been photocopied on the cheapest plain white paper, it was packed with information, history and analysis. We wanted to educate voters to make an informed voice. And the people ate it up like there was no tomorrow.

The “yes” side, on the other hand, had beautiful campaign material. Big bright signs. Glossy brochures. Professionally crafted banners. Balloons. Streamers. Boxes and boxes of buttons. And, of all things, they had hired a string quartet to play classical music beside their display table. Behind the table were a local MP and several young paid staff from his office.

However, there was another thing that glaringly distinguished our table from theirs. We had a long line up of people wanting to get literature and have discussion with us. Their side had almost no one, and that was the way it went the whole day. The string quartet played and played beautiful music, the tunes wafting down the corridors of the shopping mall. But to no avail. People flocked to our rickety little table.

Now in BC, the side advocating the status quo, the first-past-the-post electoral system which maintains power for the few, is trying similar tricks. And citizens are rising up again, not just in this province but across this country, to reform the system.
Such is the dissatisfaction of the people with the existing political process. People want more control over politicians and more control over government, and they want their will to be more effectively expressed. And that is the third reason, in my opinion, why so many people in BC are saying yes to BC-STV.

For more information on the system recommended by the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform - who voted in favour of STV by an overwhelming 146 to 7 - visit the BC-STV campaign website.

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21 April 2009

I swear this man must be a Harper spy

He has all the right moves, love of suing his enemies his most cherished one.

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Response to Pro-FPTP/Anti-STV Analogy

Discovered over at the Victoria Times-Colonist today:
In the anti-STV article by Bob Plecas Sunday, he provided a fascinating analogy between hockey playoffs and STV. It would apply perfectly in the U.S., which has a two-party system. In B.C. we have three or more parties running. The analogy breaks down when there are four teams out on the ice at the same time.

Now Smarties or gummy bears, they play an entirely different game; and they allow more than two teams!

BC-STV, the Smartier Way to Vote from Reena Meijer Drees on Vimeo.

No gummy bears were harmed in the making of this video. Afterwards? Well, if it were me...

Gummie Bears for BC-STV from Grant Fraser on Vimeo.

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WOW. Look at those comments!

So the Globe and Mail puts out this bilge suggesting that the BC government got it wrong, that instead after the 2005 BC-STV referendum it should have:
  • ignored 58% of voters who chose in favour of BC-STV and
  • designed, in collusion with other politicos and their lathering supporters, an "alternative" electoral system to the one recommended by the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform.

For one thing, the editorialists find the system "inherently bewildering."

Funny that, isn't it? One hundred and sixty randomly-selected citizens from every riding in the province had no trouble understanding BC-STV. Yet the purported brains of "Canada's national newspaper" can't manage it.

Who do you suppose has got it wrong?

Look for the answer in the comments to the article.

Those 160 BCCAER members have lots of company. Of the 56 comments so far, 54 show the commenters to have no problem understanding BC-STV. And in understanding it, they overwhelmingly endorse it.

The two comments defending the status quo are written by the same person.

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Two More Major Endorsements for BC-STV

I'm seeing a pattern. Are you? - It's citizens and their organizations vs. politicos and their puppet masters.


Canadian Taxpayers Federation and top Canadian businessman say yes to BC-STV

Vancouver, B.C. – A leading Canadian organization in the area of taxpayer’s rights and a leading Canadian businessman in the area of ethical business practices are throwing their weight behind the move to bring a fairer voting system to British Columbia. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the national watchdog over how our tax dollars are spent, says taxpayers want politicians who are more accountable to them and not to party politics.

“STV puts voters in the driver’s seat,” says Troy Lanigan, president of the CTF and a Victoria resident. “BC-STV will deliver greater choice at the ballot box and more responsive local representation. It will mean voters can vote for someone they believe in rather than against someone they don’t out of fear of splitting the vote.”

Echoing the CTF’s endorsement of BC-STV is prominent business leader and philanthropist Stephen Jarislowsky. A director of the influential C.D. Howe Institute, Mr. Jarislowsky is the founder of Jarislowsky, Fraser, which he built into one of the largest and most successful investment management firms in Canada. He is also an outspoken proponent of ethical business practices. In 2002, he co-founded the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance which promotes good governance practices in Canadian public companies. Jarislowsky is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec. In addition, he and his wife Gail have endowed eleven university chairs in Canada to nurture excellence in leadership.

“BC-STV continues to build on a broad base of support from all walks of life and all political stripes,” says Dr. Blaize Reich, a professor in the SFU Segal Graduate School of Business. “The support of such an influential organization as the CTF and such an influential Canadian as Mr. Jarislowsky is indicative of the growing number of people demanding fairness and accountability in our electoral system.”

Last week, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), an organization dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and extension of civil liberties and human rights in Canada, added their voice to the growing list of those supporting the BC-STV electoral system. In their endorsement, the BCCLA stated that they believe that STV strikes a better balance between local representation, proportionality and voter choice than the current first-past-the-post system.

On May 12, in a province wide referendum on electoral reform, voters will have a chance to make history and change the way politicians are elected. British Columbians will choose between the current “first-past-the-post” system and the STV system that was recommended overwhelmingly by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. In the last election, BC-STV received more votes than any political party, nearly 58 per cent. However, the referendum requires 60 per cent approval to be adopted by the government.

More information about the STV system and how British Columbians can get involved in the campaign is available at www.stv.ca or by calling 1-866-835-7612. Voters can also join the online discussion about electoral reform through the Facebook group “Yes for BC-STV” and www.twitter.com/BCSTV.


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20 April 2009

VIDEO: Dennis Pilon Explains STV

This video by Lazarus Productions is airing at various times on Shaw Cable; channel 11 in Victoria and Saltspring Island, channel 4 in Duncan and the Cowichan Valley.

If you are interested in the Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) - the new system recommended by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform which is being offered to voters in the referendum on May 12th - Professor Dennis Pilon has information for you: how it works, what are the benefits, and what are the problems with the current First Past the Post system.

What about coalition governments? Has STV ever been used in Canada? Many more questions are answered.

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If You're Going to Take Your Ball and Go Home Anyway

... then why not do it now and give someone else a chance at bat?

That's the question that occurred to me when I read this:
"It's quite possible I'll fold the B.C. Marijuana party and put my energy into the B.C. Greens after this election," party leader Marc Emery told The Tyee.

Emery saying this in the midst of a provincial election is like Elizabeth May's repeated comments on strategic voting during the last federal election.

It confuses supporters and volunteers; and it chases away votes from candidates working so hard, to the point of exhaustion, to represent their parties.

Really. What kind of 'leader' would do this?

To Mr. Emery, I ask:

What's the point? Why not fold up your tent now and direct supporters of the B.C. Marijuana Party to support the B.C. Greens instead, if that's what you're going to do after May 12th anyway?

ETA: From the CBC today, from the steps of the BC Legislature.

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Funnies from the BC-STV Campaign Trail

This hilarious story arrived in my inbox from someone working for their local candidate:

While a fellow campaign worker was in the office, a man called in to say he wasn't happy because there weren't any [John Doe] signs up. The worker assured the man that there were and that more would be going up.

The disgruntled supporter responded, "Well there sure aren't as many signs as that Steve guy has."

The worker asked, "What Steve? No one named Steve is running."

"Ya," the man replied, "that BC-Steve or whatever guy. His signs are everywhere!"

Way. To. Go. BC-STeVe!!

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19 April 2009

Why STV, not MMP? More Power to Voters.

By far, this is the best description of the history of the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, why the Assembly chose BC-STV over mixed member proportional representation (MMPR) and why voters prefer systems using the Single Transferable Vote.

Which, by extension, may explain why MMPR hasn't done as well in Canada as STV has in BC - the only province to have already voted on the system and given it a 58% thumbs up. Not surprisingly, that wasn't good enough for the BC Liberals who in 2001, with 57.7% of the vote, obtained 97% of the seats.

Some points of note regarding why the BCCAER chose STV over MMP:
The only limiting stipulation [imposed by the BC government] was that the new system should have no more MLAs than the legislature's then 79 members....

STV was chosen over the second choice, Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR), for two principal reasons. First, in order to avoid increasing the number of seats in the legislature, MMPR would require enlarged single-seat ridings and therefore fewer directly elected MLAs.... The Citizens' Assembly decided on STV because it would maintain the present number of seats, give total control to the voters for every MLA elected, everyone's vote would be counted, and MLAs would be elected to the legislature in close approximation to the popular vote - in other words, proportional representation.

Lots of other terrific stuff in this article by Ray Grigg of the Courier-Islander, a Campbell River paper. It is the first of a four-part series, the next part to focus on choosing candidates under BC-STV.

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Humorous Story from BC-STV Campaign Trail

Intend to write an article in the next day or two on our local volunteer team's reflections: what they're seeing on the ground, how people are reacting, and so on. In the meantime, this hilarious story arrived in my inbox from someone working for their local candidate:

While a fellow campaign worker was in the office, a man called in to say he wasn't happy because there weren't any [John Doe] signs up. The worker assured the man that there were and that more would be going up.

The man responded, "Well there sure aren't as many signs as that Steve guy has."

The worker asked, "What Steve? No one named Steve is running."

The man replied, "Ya, that BC-Steve or whatever guy. His signs are everywhere!"

Way. To. Go. BC-STeVe!!

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Guest Post: Walls

The following is by guest writer Deb Maike, who Daphne and I are hoping will soon join us on a regular basis. After reading her post, you'll understand why.

I was in Berlin in the fall of 1984 visiting a friend. The Berlin Wall, erected in the 60s still split the city in two; the forces of France, America and the Soviet Union were very present; the ravages of WW2 still evident. A modern, diverse, artistic city existed in West Berlin; the East grey, dark, depressed and denied the freedoms known to their surrounding neighbours. Gaby took me to see the Wall; tall and imposing grey concrete; Furry Freak Brothers graffiti added ‘colour’. Twenty feet in front of the real wall was a fake wall used for filming movies; pristine and blankly reflective of the monster behind it.

At this time in history another wall was being constructed in Soweto; another situation where locking out freedoms and throwing away the key seemed to be the most appropriate action.

Since those days both walls have come down; creating their own new set of problems but allowing the freedoms required to overcome the obstacles. In this day of international, speed-of-light communication between the ‘people’ a change for the better has occurred. It is increasingly difficult to put up and maintain walls; political walls; societal walls; religious walls; ethnic walls; ‘you name it’ walls, as awareness of injustices rises and gives voice to these unacceptable circumstances.

Yet, walls still exist. In Belfast peaceful, until lately, since ‘the Troubles’, there are still walls that separate Catholic from Protestant neighbourhoods in the city. While they claim to have put aside their differences, the very existence of this physical reminder continues to support and reinforce the lie they purport to have overcome.

Then there is Jerusalem; another religious, ethnic wall has been built; more neighbourhoods divided; more of the common folk divided by political machinations.

As long as these physical reminders of the principles of ‘divide and conquer’ continue to exist and, worse yet, be built, the efforts of individuals to break down barriers of a greater magnitude are diminished; barriers to education, equality, food security, housing, clean water and personal safety; barriers to basic human rights.

As long as greed exists, walls will exist. As long as we continue to support capitalism, walls will exist; as long as we continue to ignore the impoverished in our own communities walls will exist.

As with Berlin and Soweto, walls can come down but it takes the efforts of the many to survive the consequences and build the alternatives. Belfast has a perfect opportunity; Jerusalem, a harder nut to crack.

Canadians are great at deluding themselves into believing we have a ‘perfect’ country. We have an opportunity to be that exalted place but we first need to address the barriers which exist within our own borders; the same barriers of exclusion, poverty, clean water, ethnic discrimination, religious affiliation, gender equality and access to education that we want for the rest of the world. In these difficult economic times the greed of the few still determines the circumstances of the many.

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On Helping Select the Next PM or Premier

According to John Snobelen, there's only one way to do it. "Join the party."
Have you ever watched a leader's debate and wondered just who the heck picks these people? Turns out you do. Or, more precisely, most of you don't....

One way or another, unless you support the federal Liberals - who have abandoned democracy altogether - party members have a say in who leads them. The only trouble is hardly anyone is a party member....

In our system, leadership matters.... Unless you live in the riding of the leader of the successful party in the next election your only chance to vote directly for or against a leader - [or] have a say in the platform of your party - happens during the leadership selection process.

Snobolen therefore advises people to sign up, to become members of a political party of our choice in order to help select its leader and shape its policy.

Not bad advice, except for those of us who
  1. hate the party system, or
  2. cannot find a single major party whose founding principles consistently translate into directly related policy and action - i.e., parties whose leadership, which includes the leader's tight inner circle, walks its own talk, or
  3. realize that leadership is ALL that matters under the first-past-the-post electoral system and that once chosen, the leader and his/her cronies can pretty much lead the party in whatever direction they like, the rest of the membership be damned.
Now given we are stuck with the party system for at least the rest of my and likely my children's lifetimes and electoral reform is still looking for a party to make it its number one platform issue (federally, that is; the BC Greens have made it a key plank in their 2009 platform), I'd be willing to consider signing up for membership.

In fact, I spent a brief time as a member of a political party not that long ago.

It sucked.

Refer to points 1 and 3.

Still, I'd reconsider and would urge other non-partisans to reconsider, if and only if, we could join ALL political parties. In that way, we might reduce some of the polarizing aspects evident in current party politicking.

Otherwise, we're shit out of luck.

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Haven't voted yet? There are only hours to go before the end of voting. So get to it!

We made it! Challenging the Commonplace is a finalist in the Best Feminist Political Blog category for the 2009 F-Word Blog Awards - for which we make a standing ovation to the fine folks at A Creative Revolution whose vision, not to say work, is behind the awards.

So now you must do your share. Go vote. For us or for any of the other fine contestants.

Be sure to vote in all categories. Show your support for feminist blogging everywhere!

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18 April 2009

Single Transferable Vote vs. First Past the Post

... or, BC voters (65% and rising!) vs. David Schreck.

The following was received by the Georgia Straight on April 17th. It was written in response to a column by David Schreck, one of the lead proponents for retaining first-past-the-post. (Read the comments below Schreck's column. The pro-STV side vastly outnumbers the pro-FPTP side - in fact, at time of this writing, only two comments are pro-FPTP and they're by the same person.)


I am a proud Canadian and a proud British Columbian. We live in a place where the future is embraced, where taking a leadership role is considered the way to go, and where the passionate exchange of ideas is considered a part of everyday life. So when I read David Schreck's article ["Adopting STV could make B.C. politics worse", April 16], my first thought was. No, really? Really?

In cancer care, HIV policy, the environment, wellness—and many other issues—we are well in front of much of the world. But we're also trapped in an inflexible electoral system that puts ultimate political power in the hands of party leaders. No, not party grassroots: leaders. Any party in power can pick an eejit insider and we're stuck with them if they've got a majority until the next election. And when the leader of the opposition is a knucklehead, our adversarial political system falls down like a broken bicycle.

I have family in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. Each of those countries have aspects of their political culture that are good or bad. In the UK it's still first past the post (FPTP), but most parliamentary votes are conscience votes; in the U.S., ditto, except all votes are "free votes."

Australia compels voters to rank all candidates or to select a single party: if you're inclined to rank up to 75 candidates for six senate seats it's great...but if you only choose one party, they can sell your vote to another one—even one you'd never vote for. New Zealand has mixed-member proportional, which does adjust the number of seats based on overall party support: it does this, however, by giving parties seats without constituencies, whose seat holders are wholly beholden to the party leadership. More party power as a tradeoff for proportionality.

Ireland has STV; ditto Malta. Ireland has had it since the '20s and routinely produces stable coalition governments. Malta has used STV since the '70s and still hasn't sent a single third party candidate to parliament. Funny that Schreck uses Malta to prove his point, when it disproves it: voters there are split between two major parties and those two parties split the seats proportionately. Ireland elects smaller parties and independent all the time, by the way.

What Schreck doesn't acknowledge is that no one needs to do anything differently if they don't want to under STV. You like FPTP, vote for one candidate. You want to rank all candidates, go for it; if you only want to rank five, go for it.

Every single person I know would like to be able to consider sending a strong local advocate or a Green or Conservative some support, but under FPTP that has almost always been a wasted vote. Whatever party I've supported in the past, I don't want any party given the keys to Lotus Land when they haven't earned a clear majority of our support. STV would reduce the likelihood of that happening. And a few more voices would probably get into the Legislative Assembly, and anything that broadens our embarrassing left/right socialist/free enterprise political discourse could only be a very good thing for B.C.

If you want change, vote yes to STV. If you want things to stay the same, vote yes.

> John P. Egan / Vancouver

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F-Word Blog Awards: FINALISTS !!!

We made it! Challenging the Commonplace is a finalist in the Best Feminist Political Blog category for the 2009 F-Word Blog Awards - for which we make a standing ovation to the fine folks at A Creative Revolution whose vision, not to say work, is behind the awards.

So now you must do your share. Go vote. For us or for any of the other fine contestants.

Be sure to vote in all categories. Show your support for feminist blogging everywhere!

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Meat = Meat

I often hear people say they are eating a healthier, more environmentally conscious, animal friendly diet by omitting "red" meat from their diet.

Eating an animal's flesh is eating meat. Period.

All aspects of large scale animal farming degrade the environment and debase the lives of animals raised as food for humans.
On the issue of global warming, all animal agriculture is a nightmare, relative to producing grains and beans. In a 400 page report from the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization, Livestock's Long Shadow, scientists conclude that the business of raising animals for food is responsible for about 18 percent of all warming -- in fact meat causes about 40 percent more warming than all cars, trucks, and planes combined.

That is in part because turning animals into meat requires many stages of (energy intensive and polluting) production (i.e., transporting feed, animals, and meat; running feed mills, factory farms, and slaughterhouses; refrigerating carcasses during transport and in grocery stores -- chickens are at least as energy consumptive as cattle for all these stages), compared to plant foods.

Environmental Defense calculated that if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. Imagine if we dropped all meat from our diets altogether.

And it's not just global warming, of course: In a story about chicken waste pollution, the New York Times reported in November that "[a]lthough the dairy and hog industry in states near the bay produce more pounds of manure, poultry waste has more than twice the concentration of pollutants per pound." I assume that's in part because poultry are given a lot more drugs than pigs and cattle -- because they're kept in even worse conditions and thus require more drugs.

The benefits of eating meat to our health are dubious, at best.
...the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health leads the "Meatless Mondays" campaign, which is supported by 28 other public health schools. Their goal is to cut Americans' meat-consumption, in order to lessen our risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and so on. And of course, they rightly impugn all meat, not just "red" meat.

The choice to end eating meat from our diet will help the planet recover, enhance our health and reduce animal cruelty.

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17 April 2009

Fair Voting Champions to BC Voters: Say YES to STV

From media release, issued today...

Fair Vote Canada AGM shines spotlight on electoral reform

Vancouver, B.C. - Prominent Canadians of all political stripes will be in Vancouver this weekend to encourage BC voters to adopt a new way of voting that could set a new standard of fairness for elections all across Canada.

Fair Vote Canada will hold its annual general meeting this weekend in Vancouver to mark the importance of the upcoming referendum in BC on May 12. Fair Vote Canada, a national organization dedicated to electoral reform, is putting its full weight behind BC-STV (single transferable vote).

“BC-STV will bring more accountability and local representation to the BC legislature,” says Larry Gordon, executive director of Fair Vote Canada. “British Columbians deserve a fair voting system that yields real voter choice, good geographic representation and results proportional to the popular vote.”

Fair Vote Canada brings together like-minded Canadians from all walks of life and counts among its board of advisors such distinguished leaders as environmentalist David Suzuki, former BC cabinet minister and broadcaster, Rafe Mair, famous B.C. artist Robert Bateman and Dr. Margaret Fulton, well-known educator and dean of women at UBC as well as an officer of the Order of Canada.

“All across Canada, politicians will be watching BC closely on May 12,” says Arjun Singh, president of Fair Voting BC. “We have an historic opportunity to lead our nation and showcase BC as a leader in electoral reform not only in North America but around the world.”

The Fair Vote Canada annual general meeting takes place Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Segal School of Business at Simon Fraser University, 500 Granville St., Vancouver, Room 1200-1500. The public and media are invited to attend. For more information, visit www.fairvote.ca

On May 12, in a province wide referendum on electoral reform, voters will have a chance to make history and change the way politicians are elected. British Columbians will choose between the current “first-past-the-post” system and the STV system that was recommended overwhelmingly by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. In the last election, BC-STV received more votes than any political party, nearly 58 per cent. However, the referendum requires 60 per cent approval to be adopted by the government.

More information about the STV system and how British Columbians can get involved in the campaign is available at www.stv.ca or by calling 1-866-835-7612. Voters can also join the online discussion about electoral reform through the Facebook group “Yes for BC-STV” and www.twitter.com/BCSTV.


If you live in Vancouver or otherwise can attend this event, I urge you to do so. Wish I could go!

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16 April 2009

Grassroots of All Political Parties, Listen Up!

Tired of the backroom boys - and girls - deciding the direction and leadership of your party? Want to do something about it?

Then support BC-STV!
Red Tories or SoCons? Bob Rae Liberals or Michael Ignatieff Liberals? Run both and see which candidates receive more 1s and 2s next to their names. That will send a comprehensive message to the party executives and convention delegates, won't it? (Yes, I know that BC STV would only apply on a provincial level, but it's easier for me to use Federal parties as an example.)

That was written by a social conservative.

We all want to be represented fairly, at least those among us for whom wielding power isn't our lifelong ambition.

If we get together, one person at a time, we can do something about it.

Support BC-STV. Support the push for electoral reform across the country.

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Mass Suicide of 1,500 Farmers in India

I'd have expected environmentalists to be all over this, but nowhere in the blogosphere have I seen mention of it.
Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today....

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine....

Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.

In another village nearby, Beturam Sahu, who owned two acres of land was among those who committed suicide. His crop is yet to be harvested, but his son Lakhnu left to take up a job as a manual labourer. His family must repay a debt of £400 and the crop this year is poor....

Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death.... Development should be for all. The government blames us for being against development. Forest area is depleting and dams are constructed without proper planning.

And who pays but small farmers, the lifeblood of communities, while big business often funded from abroad digs into their livelihoods?

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15 April 2009

Dipper to BCNDP: Support STV or get out of the way

Dave Meslin brings several key points together in an article which appears on rabble.ca today.
The unfortunate truth is that the NDP has always supported voting reform on paper, but not when in power or close to power. We’ve had NDP governments in four provinces, and all have failed to pass legislation that would democratize our elections. The optics are bad. What it says is that we as a party are as opportunistic as the others. The risk of perpetuating this image is significant.

It isn't image. It's reality. And it's not just provincial NDP which have failed to put action to their words.

As Meslin's article highlights, the same consideration - for the interests of the party rather than of the voters - are at play with the BC NDP.
By taking a neutral stance on the referendum, the B.C. NDP is giving the Greens exactly what they want, and handing them an electoral breakthrough on a silver platter.

Some progressive leaders have even gone beyond neutrality and are actually opposing electoral reform. This smells of opportunism as the B.C. NDP can win a majority in the province under first-past-the-post.

Sadly, the tactics being used make the situation even worse. Instead of intellectual debate, we are witnessing fear mongering and false rumours being spread about STV in attempts to feed opposition. Misleading data from other countries is being used to fabricate arguments, such as the notion that STV will result in fewer women being elected. Experts and feminist leaders firmly reject the accusation, and it’s embarrassing to see some progressive leaders align themselves with this type of political activity.

If we’re serious about growing as a movement, then it’s time for the Left to take on the issue of electoral reform. Not at the bottom of our agenda, always slipping off the radar, but as a torch bearer leading the way.

Unfortunately, like Ignatieff's Liberals, Harper's Conservatives and, to a lesser extent, Layton's NDP, the BC NDP are following the same pattern of ignoring their own members.

As Meslin notes elsewhere in his article, a vast majority of members of the BC NDP support BC-STV. But do you think the party's leadership listens to them? Of course not.

Note that when referring to the party "leadership" I am not talking just about Carole James. I include those around her, such as insiders Bill Tieleman and David Schreck, the two main forces behind the No campaign, and others with whom I've been in contact. Virtually all their arguments are advanced from a party point of view. Few, if any, appear to address concerns for voters.

Well, electoral systems aren't about empowering parties. They are about empowering voters.

The optics are clear: the leadership of the BC-NDP cares only about the position of the party, not the voters or the members the party is supposed to represent.

H/t to HUD for bringing this article to my attention.

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Poll: 65% of British Columbians Favour BC-STV

April 15, 2009
Poll: 65 per cent of British Columbians support BC-STV
Younger voters overwhelming in their support

Vancouver, B.C. – The numbers are in and British Columbia voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum on May 12. That is the top line result of a major survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies. Support for a new way of electing our MLAs is particularly strong among younger voters – those 18 to 34 – at 74 per cent.

“The survey results indicate that British Columbians and particularly younger voters are ready to embrace a new electoral system in British Columbia,” said Catherine Rogers, vice president, Angus Reid Strategies. “A large majority are looking for electoral change and want an electoral system that is fair and that elects MLAs who are more accountable to them.”

When presented with the question that will appear on the ballot, 65 per cent said yes to BC-STV while only 35 per cent chose to keep the current first-past-the post system. Angus Reid Strategies conducted the online survey March 9 to 12 and polled 702 British Columbians across the province. While support for BC-STV continues to grow, awareness of the upcoming referendum is at 44 per cent.

The campaign team leading the charge to adopt BC-STV is working hard across the province to raise awareness of the ballot question and to encourage all British Columbians to learn about BC-STV and join the discussion about electoral reform.

“Building awareness is key for us. When the Citizens’ Assembly was formed in 2003, its mandate was to make sure we had an electoral system that was fair and representative of the voters’ wishes,” said Shoni Field, a former member of the Citizens’ Assembly. “The more we researched different systems the more support there was for this particular one. When our group of 160 average British Columbians were fully aware of the issue, 95 per cent of us backed BC-STV.”

“To win, we will need voters to turn out in big numbers on election day, and there are groups that have a traditionally low voter turnout who could be the difference, such as people under 34 and people who are so fed up with the current system that they sometimes don’t vote at all,” continued Field. “Fortunately, President Barak Obama has inspired a lot of these voters that change is possible. If they vote on May 12, we could see historic change in BC.”

On May 12, in a province wide referendum on electoral reform, voters will have a chance to change the way politicians are elected. British Columbians will choose between the current “first-past-the-post” system and the STV system that was recommended overwhelmingly by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2004. In the last election, BC-STV received more votes than any political party, nearly 58 per cent. However, the referendum requires 60 per cent approval to be adopted.

More information about the STV system and how British Columbians can get involved in the campaign is available at www.stv.ca or by calling 1-866-835-7612

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[Thanks to reader Ian for the heads-up on this fabulous news.]

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On Politicians and Listening

Friend Daphne wrote a post earlier today on her reflections of a political meeting we attended last evening.

Both cynics, we were pleasantly surprised by what we heard - or rather, what we didn't hear.

We didn't hear the speaker claim that he and his party had all the answers, that solutions proposed by individuals and community groups were naive or bad ideas since they weren't in sync with solutions the party thinks are better for us, that when he goes knocking on doors it's chiefly to tell the people he meets what he and his party is about, that a vote for anyone but him will be a wasted vote....

When this man was finished telling us a bit about himself and what he'd been up to lately - it was his campaign kickoff, after all - he turned the evening over to the rest of us. And then he listened.

That's what was so refreshing, and I've experienced this too few times with politicians and political wannabes.

In fact, it's been an exercise in frustration to be occasionally invited to participate in events, at which I thought I was expected to point out the problems I see and their solutions, only to be ignored the moment I mentioned solutions which run counter to that representative's party interests. Then the ears got turned off and the attention behind the eyes went elsewhere.

With such politicians - and they're in the majority - one gets heard only when one agrees with them. Which makes the entire exercise pointless and terribly disillusioning. On leaving such events, I've always felt exploited and used and a sick feeling has lingered for days afterward.

Thing is, there shouldn't be such need of citizens to be heard by politicians in order to get problems addressed if the most political power rested with citizens and their communities, not with upper-tier governments. As I've argued before, we need to turn the power pyramid upside down.

Politics and government shouldn't be about imposing on communities one-size-fits-all policies, programs and solutions. They should be about creating an environment that enables communities to build on their own strengths, which includes full citizen engagement. They should be about encouraging empowerment from the ground up.

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Greens Back BC-STV for Fairer Representation

From the BC Greens' media release:

April 15, 2009 - 19:05 — Philip Stone

Vancouver False Creek: At a media conference held on the front steps of Vancouver City Hall, BC Greens today highlighted the opportunities for women and minorities in Government offered by a new system of voting that will be put to the test on May 12, 2009.

The Green Party of BC is backing the chance to change the way the province elects its MLAs, from the current 'first past the post' system – in which voters have just one vote to elect one MLA and may see a party taking a majority of seats without a majority of the vote - to the BC Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) system, in which voters can rank their support for candidates in order of preference to make sure their ballot always counts.

In other countries, STV has enabled more women and minority candidates to be elected to Government because it more accurately translates votes into seats.

Damian Kettlewell, BC Greens' Deputy Leader and party spokesman for electoral and government accountability reform, pointed to Western Australia as an example - where women hold 47% of the Legislative Council seats under an STV system but only 20% of the seats in the Legislative Assembly, where candidates are elected using the 'first past the post' method.

"BC-STV is a chance to give all candidates – including women, independents and those from smaller parties – greater parity on the ballot," he said.

"Voters have more choice under a proportional system, which will make sure that our Legislature is a more accurate reflection of support on the ground – and that all candidates must work just as hard to earn the chance to serve."

STV was recommended as a fairer voting system for BC in 2004, by a panel of 160 ordinary people drawn at random from across the province to understand and research all the options.

They concluded that BC-STV will:

Make more votes count and virtually eliminate ‘wasted’ votes: 80-90% of voters will get one of their choices for MLA elected, compared with only 40-50% at the moment;

Give voters more candidates to choose from;

Ensure that the Legislature is more representative of voters’ views.

For more information on BC-STV, visit http://www.stv.ca/.

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