Friday, February 20, 2009


Charge: BC-STV is not ‘truly’ proportional.

BC-STV is a proportional type of electoral reform. If we make a comparison to the current system of FPTP, any type of proportional representation system is a significant improvement. All one has to do is look to the skewed results of past provincial elections to see how disproportional the current system is. In 1996, the NDP won a majority government despite having less % popular vote than the Liberals (NDP received 39% support and Liberals received 42% support). In 2001, the Liberals received 57% popular vote but won 97% of the seats in the House. Since a picture says a thousand words, the improvement in proportionality under BC-STV can be easily seen graphically by looking at the following link: Proportionality and the Single Transferable Vote .

It is true that BC-STV is not 100% proportional but it is far more proportional than the current system of FPTP. I see it as a balance between local representation and proportionality. You could make the districts very large… the larger you go the more proportional the results. If we had one district that was the whole of BC, similar to the provincial list region for Ontario’s MMP model, it would be 100% proportional but that would be undesirable as you would not get local representation at all. Districts with 5 or more MLAs are very nearly proportional while the smaller ones are less so but still significantly more proportional than what we have now. From the largely populated areas feedback to the Citizens’ Assembly suggested that proportionality was the most important factor. Under BC-STV, with the proposed electoral boundaries, these urban areas get near proportionality with districts having a greater number of MLAs. In the more spread-out rural ridings feedback suggested that local representation was the most important factor and we get that under BC-STV with districts of fewer MLAs. In the rural areas, we could get better proportionality by combining more ridings together but we would lose too much in terms of local representation as the districts would be far too spread out. Personally, I would not want to combine the Northeast and Northwest in order to have a 4 MLA district and thus more proportionality. The cost in terms of loss of local representation would be far too high. The proposed electoral boundaries under BC-STV give the best balance between local representation and proportionality for both urban and rural regions, giving very nearly proportional results for urban areas and leaning more towards local representation for rural areas… we all get what we want.

With proportional results the House would more accurately reflect the diversity of BC as it should.

Response by Wilf Day (1),

With STV, the higher the district magnitude, the more proportional the results. The district magnitude of BC-STV is higher than in Ireland, lower than in Northern Ireland or Tasmania. In both Ireland and Northern Ireland it is called PR-STV, or "PR" for short. They understand very well that it is more proportional with larger districts; Northern Ireland was not satisfied with five-seaters and changed to six-seaters. Yet they still considered the five-seater model as "proportional representation" -- because it is, although six-seaters are even better.

Detailed response by Antony Hodgson (2),

On proportionality, for example, there is no doubt that STV is far more proportional than FPTP. Using Gallagher's Disproportionality Index, for example, Northern Ireland dropped from about 15% to about 4% when they adopted STV (Canada's outcomes on this scale have ranged over the past 30 years from ~9-21% and the UK from 12-18%). The two countries using STV to elect their legislatures are Malta (0.3-3%) and Ireland (2-7%). Malta and Ireland are both in the top 10 most proportional countries in the world, whereas none of the FPTP countries (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand pre-MMP, etc) are. These values for STV are comparable to all the various list PR and MMP countries often held up as examples of proportionality - Finland (2-5%), Germany (0.5-5%), New Zealand (1-3.4%, down from 9-18% under FPTP), so there's no historical evidence for arguing… that "STV is nowhere near as proportional as other electoral systems being considered in places like Ontario or already used elsewhere in the world.” On a provincewide scale, STV will likely be just as proportional as the MMP system Ontario is considering.

(1) Chris H. by Wilf Day,

(2) Antony Hodgson said…,

1 comment:

  1. Well said, extremely well said! The adaptability of the BC-STV systems in rural and urban areas is very well explained. As you said, STV is a "balance between local representation and proportionality"