Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Cyberspace is ours, now BC-STV must conquer meatspace.

May 7, 2009

I think the online buzz and opinion making for BC-STV is pretty solid at this point.  Letters are flooding onto websites of newspapers and blogs and twitter is all, well, a-twitter about the benefits of BC-STV.  Of course, the internet doesn’t get a vote and you can’t send in your ballot via twitter (yet) and there are some people out there not buzzing around online talking about the election.  Actually, most people aren’t.  This weekend most people will be shopping, attending conventions, street festivals and hockey games.

So we need to be there.

We need to get out of cyberspace and get into meatspace and talk to people using modulated soundwaves in the air.  We need to ask them to consider this important choice, offer them pamphlets to read more, tell them about the website to find videos and just plain-old answer their questions and assuage their fears, because there is nothing to be scared of except staying with FPTP forever.

So this is a call to everyone online, to go offline at some point in the next 4 days and connect with some real, physical people.  If everyone one of us online can convince 10 people and raise awareness of 100 people we might be able to actually do this thing.  Of course, we’ll use the internet to organize that 😉

Flyers : Here are some great flyers to print out about BC-STV. Print 100 and give them out this weekend.

Map : Here’s a map with the locations of some of BC-STV events that need volunteers or where people plan to be talking to pedestrians.  It will grow in the next few days, so far its just vancouver, but anyone in BC can use it.  If you have a gmail account you can edit it yourself and add your plans.  Maybe people will show up to help.

Pass the link on to your friends and add stuff to the map, then get out there and talk to people, the link is


Star Trek: STV – Where no referendum has gone before #startrekstv

May 6, 2009

First of all a confession, without any shame, I am a Star Trek geek.  I don’t dress up as a Klingon or anything, but I like it a lot.  So in the next week there are two exciting things going on: 1) the biggest election of my lifetime (so far) with a real chance to begin the process of electoral reform in Canada on May 12 and 2) the Star Trek prequel movie is coming out which could lead to the rebirth of a healthy Star Trek storyline.

Are these two passions related in any way?  Not really, but that won’t stop me! Because it occurred to me the other day that the electoral system that a society chooses to use says a lot about what they value in democracy and it influences the way their society grows by giving different incentives to leaders.  So, the thought experiment for Star Trek fans is, which electoral systems would the civilizations in the Star Trek universe use?

I’m going to tell you what I think but first we need a few ground rules.  Lets assume every Star Trek civilization has some form of representative democracy that involve an election system of some kind.  We’ll try to limit ourselves to existing electoral systems in use around the world or plausible ones that could be created.  Here is a map of electoral systems in use around the world right now and the wikipedia page on electoral systems to give you an idea of what they are.

I’ll update the page as I think of more and you should feel free to add comments here on what I got wrong or right or what the races I missed would use.  You can also join the discussion on twitter with #startrekstv.

Note: to star trek pedants, I realize star trek STV sounds like I may be talking about the “movie” Star Trek V: the Final Frontier, but since I have decided to ignore the entire existence of that horrible film and there is no reason to talk about said film I didn’t think it would be too confusing.

The Electoral Systems of the Races of Star Trek

Klingons – FPTP – Clearly the Klingons would use a single member plurality system, or First-Past-The-Post (FPTP), which is used currently in Canada, US, Britain, India and a few other places.  FPTP is winner take all, you don’t need consensus, or a majority you just need to be the strongest one in the room and the last one standing.  Is it an honourable system?  Its simple and I suppose it seems honourable if honour is equivalent to strength for you rather than wisdom or fairness.  In addition to FPTP used on Earth of course, the Klingons would not just throw away all the votes for the losing candidates, they’d have the losing candidates killed, fair’s fair.

Romulans – Closed List MMP – The Romulans are a logical bunch, a trait they got from their Vulcan ancestors, and they actually do have a democracy in Star Trek with a Roman style senate.  However, they don’t seem too interested in grass roots movements or losing control of the central levers of power. So it seems like the Romulans would use a robust proportional system that placates the people but then rig it so that they have as much control over who wins as possible.  One way to do that is to use a list proportional system like Mixed Member Proportional but instead of openly published lists, which is what we normally do on Earth and is  a good idea, the Romulans would have closed, secret lists chosen by the party.  Of course, in addition to that, the ‘parties’ in the Romulan Senate are probably just fronts that pretend to hate each other to convince the electorate there is competition.

Vulcans – ??? – I’m still undecided on what the  Vulcans would use. Vulcans are very logical so perhaps they’d use the most reasonable and logical system, STV.  But they probably aren’t actually interested in fairness as much as balance so they may aim for something that is less combatative than a standard electoral system, something that requires a great deal of consensus or even a unanimous vote.  One idea is that they would use an electoral college system that always requires unanimous votes.  Once a local representative is chosen they go to the central legislature and analyse policies until unanimity is reached.  One thing I’m sure of is they would not allow campaign advertising which tends to play on emotions or a long campaign period.  The various candidates would list their policies in detail.  Then all citizens would have a week to study them and then choose, without discussion, the most logical candidates.

Ferengi – Pure Capitrocracy – The Ferengi are definetly not interested in fairness, voter choice or even the most logical choice.  They want to be lead by those with the best business acumen who can increase the profits of the empire the most.  So, every four years the government would be replaced by the CEOs of the most profitable corporations of the previous four years. Ministerial jobs such as Environment would be selected based on the leading corporations from different industries such as resources and mining.

Borg – Continuous, Online Forced Consensus Voting – Ok, the Borg are a little different, they really do vote I’m sure. Its a plurality system, sort of.  Once more than half the collective decides, “one drone one vote”, then all other drones who disagreed are reprogrammed to agree with the decision. So after the fact it is always a completely unanimous democracy, ‘perfect’ as the Borg would say.

Humans/Federation – STV – The Federation of United Planets is primarily interested in fairness, equality and hearing all voices.  Despite accusations of being a ‘Homo Sapiens only club’ they would want broad representation of the many varied viewpoints on each planet and across the federation.  So clearly they would want a largely proportional system that also has local representation.  Each planet would need to send multiple representatives so that they are not viewed through a single, oversimplying stereotype.  Decisions in the government would be made using a parliamentary system where a majority rules but the majority would need to be formed through consensus and coalitions between individual representatives from different worlds or multi-world parties if these formed.

Now, what do you think?  I left out a lot of civilizations and I’m sure you disagree with something in my analysis, let me know.

Our second — and last — chance for change

May 5, 2009

A few must reads:

Oh ya, STV, that’s gonna pass this time right? #stvrocks

May 2, 2009

I get this a lot.  There are a lot of people who know about BC-STV, think its a great idea, an obviously great idea and assume its going to pass this time around.  That really gives me hope, I hope they’re right, I really do.  But some polls indicate that a lot of people, half the province or more, don’t even know about the referendum.  So I don’t know what to think except, lets not count our eggs until they’re hatched.  There is only a week and a bit to go, so lets just pretend for the next week that we’re not sure and make sure we do everything we can to make people aware of the importance of this referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

The Most Important Election in a Generation

April 15, 2009

In his campaign kickoff speech yesterday, premier Gordon Campbell proclaimed that this election will be the most important election in a generation. The choice voters make this election will indeed reverberate through BC and Canada for decades to come, but not based on whether we choose to have the NDP or the Liberals run the province for the next few years.  The choice that matters is whether we decide to stay with the current First-Past-The-Post electoral system or switch to BC-STV.  Read the rest of this entry »

BC-STV is the Buzz Online

April 9, 2009

Read this press release : BC-STV is the talk of the internets.

Alright, that’s what I’m talking about!  Everyone probably knows already which of the two parties they are going to vote for anyways.  They may even vote for a third or fourth party and hope with all their might that they’ll win even though they know that our antiquated first-past-the-post couting system makes this very unlikely.

On twitter the buzz is definitely heating up, many back and forth exchanges from both sides and from regular lurkers who haven’t enough info to decide yet (#bcstv).  Recently, there’s even a bit of competition to try to come up with tweetable descriptions of BC-STV and FPTP (see #tweetbcstv).  Its hard to simplify an entire electoral system to 140 characters, no matter how simple it is.  But that doesn’t stop people from trying and it creates some fun discussion.  We’re going to track the best answers on our #tweetbcstv page

Why BC-STV is Simpler than FPTP, Two Words, Strategic Voting

April 3, 2009

Strategic voting is one of the things people like to complain about most in our current electoral system. I  wrote about strategic voting during the last federal election and how it has led to creative voting solutions like vote swapping.  Strategic voting is a natural response to an unfair system, if you don’t vote strategically under FPTP then you are not really accepting how your vote is counted. Bernard von Schulmann has a nice article about strategic voting and how BC-STV removes the need to worry about it.  Ideally we would like to have  a system that does not require strategic voting or anything complicated except people expressing their true, honest preferences on election day.

Thats why BC-STV is actually simpler than FPTP.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why BC-STV is the most important issue this election

April 2, 2009

In the upcoming election there are many important issues to consider as you decide who to vote for, but there is one issue that is more important for the long term than any other.  The choice British Columbians make in this election about their electoral system will ring through decades and change how your voice will be heard in all following elections.  But it seems that, so far, people don’t see this.

Read the rest of this entry »

Repost : in praise of Re-runs

March 29, 2009

Arthur Klassen has a good post (Non-random Notes: BC STV — Sometimes re-runs are a good thing) about why its not such a bad thing to ask the public the same question a second time, especially when the answer (ie. “Yes we want a fair voting system”) could start to fix so many problems in our democracy.

Resp to CBC The House: Lack of MPs does not mean lack of support

March 28, 2009
(This was an email I sent in response to a discussion on CBC Radio’s The House on Sat, March 28 2009)

Dear Ms. Petty,
One of your guests this morning, while discussing Michael Ignatieff’s new focus on the west, mentioned the failure of the Green party to win a seat in recent elections. While acknowledging that the Green party was the only one to gain new votes he simultaneously dismissed all green (small “g”) voters by saying that Elizabeth May had not done enough to “excite the population” about the green agenda. This is hogwash and you should have called him on it. Read the rest of this entry »