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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Jan. 17, 2005)

Propaganda on Voting System Begins

John Pifer

When British Columbians head to the polls on May 17th for the provincial general election, they will be asked to vote on whether or not to change the first-past-the-post system that has been in place for decades.

The British parliamentary system has served Canada well; it is not broken, and despite the efforts and earnestness of the Citizens’ Assembly, it does not need to be fixed.

Over the next four months, there will be concerted efforts by advocates of STV (single transferable ballot) to convince us that somehow this convoluted 1,2,3, method of preference in candidates is a Godsend that is far more democratic. The fact that only one Commonwealth country (Malta) of 53 has implemented it, and that Malta is notorious for its polarized politics, should be all the information we need to say “No, thanks” to this lunacy.

But a group calling itself “Fair Voting BC”, headed by former Social Credit MLA Nick Loenen has already begun to pour out information on its version of the capital-T truth regarding STV, and you may rest assured it will spread it on thick over the next four months.

Mr. Loenen (whose nickname in the Legislative press gallery 15 years ago was “Nick the Loon”) is spearheading “educational” meetings around the BC to promote his cause. There is not likely to be any formal “No” campaign to counter the Fair Voting thrust, and that should worry us all.

As part of the campaign, the “Yes” campaigners are targeting ethnic communities such as Chinese and Indo-Canadians, “to help them to better understand STV.” How terribly condescending is that? Other societies around the province are planning information meetings, too, all of which look like exploring the “pros” and ignoring the “cons” of the proposal. In an e-mail newsletter from Mr. Loenen, he pooh-poohs the suggestion that changing the voting system would lead to weak government. “When no one party has a majority, the fear is that endless bickering will hurt effective decision-making and good government,” he writes.

Countries such as Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Germany have some manner of proportional voting systems and coalition governments and, says Our Nick, they are strong and stable and “most democracies have coalition government, and it works well.” Sure it does, Nicko, ask any Italian!

No doubt Mr. Loenen’s heart is in the right place, and that he really believes that “giving less power to one party results in greater accountability in government, less of a dictatorship, and public policies less open to wild swings instigated by partisan politics.” No doubt he believes that BC politics will be less polarized; but please remember that such a belief is just an opinion, not a fact.

It is to be hoped that when BC voters step into the polling booth to mark their X for their preferred candidate, that the referendum on changing the voting system will not be an afterthought. Remember, it ain’t broke, so why fix it?

To be fair, here is the website for the “Vote Yes” machine -- -- where you may see their version of why this voting system “promises to deliver effective local representation, less party discipline, accountable government and a less polarized politics.”

But please, please be wary. Is such fundamental constitutional change truly necessary? The answer is “No”.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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