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Hume's criticisms wide of the mark

10th November, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Response by an Assembly member

The following appeared as a "SOUNDOFF" feature in The Vancouver Sun on Wednesday 10 November 2004. It was written in response to a column in the Sun of Saturday 06 November by Stephen Hume. 


The Vancouver Sun, Wednesday 10 November 2004

As a member of the Citizens’ Assembly, I was disappointed with Stephen Hume's Nov. 6 column "Democratic? Anything but."

Hume does not think the process was democratic; the members were not elected, etc. That we were selected and not elected is true. That we will disappear after the referendum is also true.

That another process would have been more democratic may or may not be true, depending on whether your definition of democracy is limited to elected officials or includes participatory decisions. That this has any bearing on the alternative system we are proposing is false.

Our mandate, from the current, elected government, was twofold: One – recommend whether the current model for elections should be retained; two – if we decided no to the first question then recommend the adoption of an alternative model for electing members of the legislative assembly.

One alternative, that was our mandate. We also had no input on how the members were selected or any other part of the process. The time to discuss the process is past and has no relevance to the debate on the recommended alternative electoral model.

The true democracy of the Citizens’ Assembly will occur with the referendum on May 17, 2005. The people of British Columbia will then make a choice of retaining the current system or deciding to change to the STV system.

Hume gave no defence of the current system other than it was achieved at great cost. (What cost? We are not recommending abolishing democracy, no wars were fought to defend plurality voting). The current system, with only one member elected in every district, has only been in effect since 1991.

Hume has expressed only one fault with the recommended system. He does not consider the counting system "straightforward" because it requires a formula.

On the one hand he feels that the assembly is "elitist" and that we felt that if we offered him more than one choice it would be "intellectually overwhelming" for him; on the other hand, he does seem to find a simple equation "beyond his basic math skills".

There is no need for a computer to count ballots. Ireland has used STV since 1922 and managed for many decades to elect a government without the use of either a computer or a calculator.

Hume wants choice and we are offering him an electoral system that will give him that choice. His vote will never go to someone he did not select, and there has been no discussion of non-paper ballots.

Let us have an open debate on the merits of the two choices instead of rhetoric to hide the real issues.

Edith Davidson lives in Delta
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