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News release - The Final Report
10th December, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Assembly sees better democracy
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform says the new proportional electoral system it proposes for B.C. will improve the practice of democracy in the province.
"Election results will be fairer, reflecting a balance between votes and seats, voters will have more choice and candidates will work harder to earn their support," says the final report of the Assembly, Making Every Vote Count: The Case for Electoral Reform in British Columbia.
"Political parties will remain at the centre of the electoral process, but they will give up some of the excesses of party discipline and the adversarial style that alienates many voters. The Legislative Assembly will be strengthened in its ability to hold governments accountable."
The report was released Friday. In it, the Assembly recommends a proportional voting system it calls BC-STV. A main feature of this "single transferable vote" (STV) system is that, rather than marking an "X" beside one name, voters number candidates from most favourite to least favourite (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.).
"If a voter’s favourite candidate (#1) is not elected, or has more votes than are needed to be elected, then the voter’s vote is 'moved' to his or her next most favourite candidate (#2)," the report explains. "The vote is transferred rather than wasted. The aim of this system is to make all votes count."
Says the Assembly: "We are recommending that British Columbians adopt BC-STV as their voting system. We are convinced that this system best incorporates the values of fair election results, effective local representation, and greater voter choice."
And it says those values -— fairness, local representation and voter choice — were what the Assembly's 160 members heard from thousands of British Columbians in 50 public hearings and in 1,603 written submissions.
"What we most wanted to learn was what values, hopes and desires should underlie our electoral system and which principles should direct our decisions and recommendation," says the Assembly. "This work has led us to the following recommendation:
"The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform recommends our province adopt a new voting system, which we call 'BC-STV.' This single transferable vote system is customized for this province. It is fair and easy to use, and it gives more power to voters."
Now it's up to the voters, who will vote on BC-STV in a referendum in the next provincial election on May 17, 2005. The government says that if voters approve the proportional BC-STV model, it will introduce legislation so the new system can go into effect for the 2009 election.
Says the Assembly: "British Columbians have an unprecedented opportunity to take control of some of the most important rules of democracy. After considering all of the options — including doing nothing — we are convinced that by adopting the BC-STV electoral system the voters will create a system where they, the voters themselves, are closer to the centre of the system.
"In a democracy, that is what 'fair' is about."
The 16-page report was presented to the B.C. government Friday at an open cabinet meeting in Victoria, and will be available in full on the Assembly's website at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca. Versions in Chinese, Punjabi and French will also be posted as soon as available.
In late January, a copy of the report will be delivered to every household in B.C. If you'd like to get one before then, you can call the Assembly office at 604-660-1232 (toll free: 1-866-667-1232) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and mailing address.
Copies will also be distributed to libraries, municipal halls, government agents, community and First Nations centres, schools and colleges, MLAs' offices, provincial and national archives and other locations.
"BC-STV responds to British Columbia’s basic values," adds Friday's report. "It provides for fair election results, effective local representation, and greater voter choice, and it best balances these three values of electoral politics.
"Similar systems have been used successfully — in some cases for decades — to elect members to various positions in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, countries that share our Westminster parliamentary tradition. The Irish government has twice tried to use referendums to abolish STV, but the voters said 'No.'
"This is a system designed by voters for voters."
The report also notes: "BC-STV can produce a majority government if a majority of voters vote for one party. While this is possible, the province’s history suggests that governments under the new system will likely be a minority or a coalition of two or more parties.
"This will mean a change in party organization and practices; parties will need to be more responsive to the voters and less adversarial with their opponents and partners."
The Citizens’ Assembly -- an independent, representative, non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians -- now disbands, and its office begins to close.
Details of its work and the BC-STV system are at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca