The STV thing

Well, the STV thing.....

I've had many calls from people wanting to know where I stand on it. People have stopped me and asked and to be honest, I've ducked. "Undecided", I've said. And Mez has heroically sent me messages, info, and encouragement (thanks Mez!). So, where am I at?

First off, the "First Past the Post" system we have now needs to be changed - no question about that. I and the federal NDP are big supporters of Mixed Member Proportional Representation. I understand it. I can explain it. And you still vote for a local representative with the additional list of party candidates that balances a fair representation by population overall. And women and underrepresented minorities have an increased voice and representation. That's all good. Only problem is, MMP isn't on the ballot in BC. Single Transferable Vote is.

Now, I have looked at the STV website many times, I voted on it, practised, read the info, and well, I don't really get it. In fact I defy anyone to explain how STV really works. I can't quite follow where my vote goes - what with these "fractions" and "may" go here or there. So that's one problem - I feel loath to support something I don't quite understand. Then there's the problem of lack of local representation as the areas are so big. Local representation could get bypassed in the transfer process. I've fought long and hard to change the "at-large" system of voting in Vancouver municipal politics - is STV just a slightly better version of it? And then there's the question of supporting a system that gets more women elected. MMP does that - but I'm not so sure about STV, though Mez assures me, it too, will help increase the representation of women in elected office.

The bottom line? People say to me - this is the best chance we have to get democratic electoral reform through, now and not in the distant future, especially as the last referendum was so close. This is a good point. Like many, I want change - progressive change - and I want to see the cynicism that people feel about politics and the political process change too. Not that STV will answer all that - it won't. But maybe it’s a first step to affirm change brought forward by citizens, not political parties.

So here I am, in answer to all the questions about my position - I can't duck it any longer. I'm voting YES to STV. I'm a bit of a reluctant comer to it and I’ve got my issues about it. But I've come to the conclusion that it’s the right thing to do, at least for my one vote! If it goes through and it turns out to be a dud, I'll freely admit it, and work harder for MMP, as hard as it might be to get it. Alternatively, what I really hope is that STV will lead us to the next step of MMP.

This Blog Entry was posted on April 24, 2009



I want to thank you for supporting BC-STV. I can understand your concern about women'r representation under BC-STV. However, I think if political parties such as the NDF take an active role in getting women on the ballot, more women will get elected. I also think that people who support proportional representation need to support BC-STV this time as it will be extremely difficult to promote andother PR voting system if BC-STV fails to achieve 60% of the votes. Try BC-STV for a couple of elections. If it doesn't work, then another system such as MMP can be proposed.

Michael Bednarski

STV is not Block Voting

The difference between STV and the "at-large" Block Voting used in municipal elections in Vancouver is this:

Under Block Voting, you get as many votes as there are candidates. If, for example, there are 2000 Liberal voters and 1000 NDP voters, then every Liberal candidate gets 2000 votes and every NDP candidate gets 1000 votes.

The result is that the same group of voters (usually a minority) elects all the candidates. It is normal for one faction to sweep the election. Block Voting is First-Past-The-Post squared.

Under STV, you get one vote. Votes for candidates who are eliminated, and surplus votes for candidates who get elected, are transferred to the next preference so that every vote counts fully.

The result is that every MLA is elected by a different set of voters. This means that almost every voter is represented by somebody they voted for. Parties win seats in proportion to the votes they receive.

Not the same thing at all.

Complexity, STV and MMP

Hi Libby,

I'm glad that you support a good system, even if you don't think it is perfect. I was originally an MMP proponent myself, but now think that both STV and MMP have strengths and are far better than FPTP!

About the complexity, I would certainly be happy to take that challenge to explain BC-STV in person (so I could answer questions - However it is easy to understand the high-level idea of STV:

Vancouver West elects six MLAs, so each group of roughly 1/6th of the voters elects an MLA they want. Not everyone can get their first choice, so voters indicate a few backups in case they don't get their first choice. The rest is just details that make the system fairer and more robust.

The details involve fractions, and take ~15min to explain. MMP is also somewhat complex when you get into the details (Can you explain the D'Hondt method for allocating seats in MMP?

Bruce Krayenhoff

Thank you - and Congratulations

Thank you! I am confident that over time this system will win you over completely.

The riding sizes are bigger, which is more work for politicians for sure, however they will have multiple representatives who are accountable to those constituents. If there is a problem in Mt Pleasant then it will have 5 MLAs who can speak up for it in Victoria rather than just one. Plus, those representatives might be from different political parties so that means that local issues don't just become the turf of whomever wins that area - but the responsibility of all parties.

Voters love it once its implemented. The ballot is easy as 1-2-3 and people learn that if their first vote doesn't get in, or has way more votes than they need, then their vote is transferred to their second choice. It prevents 77-2 wipeouts, (and the same wipeouts that occur municipally in Vancouver from left to right) and means that a politicians local name and reputation is just as, if not more important than their political party.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your vote.

I fear that if this vote doesn't pass that electoral reform as an issue will be dead in Canada for a long time.

keep talking to Mez!

Good to hear Libby. Good job Mez!

Since the evidence is there re/ a much higher rate of women's representation and an improved quality of representation (size isn't everything!) I'm sure that if you keep talking to Mez, he'll be able to banish that reluctance!

Shoni Field


Scotland uses MMP for the Scottish Parliament and STV for municipal elections, which they run on party labels. New Zealand uses MMP for national elections, and STV for regional elections and some local elections. Both systems are good proportional systems.

So there's no reason why BC couldn't use STV provincially while Canada moves to MMP nationally.

The Lower Mainland has 10 STV districts. Nationally, the Lower Mainland has 21 MPs. With MMP that might be 13 or 14 larger local ridings, and 7 or 8 regional "top-up" MPs elected by open list from a Lower Mainland regional list.

If 13 or 14 ridings are not too large, 10 districts are not too large either.

Will open-list systems (either BC-STV or open-list MMP) help or hurt women? Sweden had that debate for many years. Finally they decided to allow more voter choice, and changed their closed-list system to open-list. It helped women: more women moved up the list and broke the slate than moved down. In a country like Ireland that votes mostly for men, STV doesn't help much nationally (although STV elects lots of Irish women to Dublin city council and to the European Parliament.) I think BC voters will vote for women if they have the chance.

In East Vancouver, STV will elect any party's candidate who gets 17% of the votes. Statistically, a candidate who gets 11% of the vote on the first count is likely to end up with 17% on the final count, after the candidates with less support drop off the count and the candidates with most support see their surplus transferred to their voters' second choice. I can see the NDP nominating two men and two women, and electing at least three MLAs. And then the NDP would also elect at least two MLAs from West Vancouver. And you wouldn't see results like the Liberals electing all three MLAs from Prince George.

Electoral reformers across Canada are glad of your support, and are hoping BC-STV gets implemented.

Wilf Day


Congratulations on your tough decision.

I would like to share several things about STV with you.

1st, a few weeks after the 2005 referendum, Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland and subsequent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights showed up at Vancouver City Hall and I had the pleasure of talking with her for two minutes. She said the people of Ireland are very pleased with the voting system and her clearness and manner gave me confidence that STV is a good thing.

2nd, the CEO of Healthy Heart Society of BC comes from Ireland. When I asked him about STV, he said something I had not heard elsewhere--he credits Northern Ireland's adoption of STV with a significant role in minimizing violence in Northern Ireland. Evidentally, STV has been recently adopted and you can see on the url below that Ian Paiseley and Gerry Adams are working in the same parliament:,_2007

Finally, someone makes the comment below that block voting (as in City of Vancouver elections) is very differnet from STV. Several weeks ago I looked at the past five elections in Vancouver and calculated what would be the number of city councillors NPA or COPE/Vision would have had if they were proportional to the fractions of voters who had voted for the NPA or COPE/Vision candidates for mayor. It turns out that the block system exaggerates whoever wins by 2.6 seats out of ten. In other words, if Ladner got 37% of the votes, you'd expect NPA to get 3 or 4 seats, but they got one. A similar pattern held except for the 2005 election when the numbers were very close. What STV offers, because of the ranking and transferring of the vote, is a chance for everyone's top priorities to play a role.
By the way, I understand that the city of Cambridge Massachusetts uses STV in their municipal elections but I have not yet gathered the details.

Fred Bass

Respectfully disagree

You speak about power of political parties, they are strongest under STV and would be even more so with our huge geography, the David Emerson's of the world would love this system because "they" decide when to leave politics,he would have a tough road under FPTP but an absolute cakewalk under STV, I hope you did your homework before deciding,I do wonder why you and all the other politicians endorsing STV didn't send the C.A. a message of your desire for this system, you know the reason told to choose it right? "politicians hate it"? find one in Ireland that hates it.

I greatly respect all the work you've done in your career, but I think your way off target with this one.

Voters Choose to keep STV in Ireland Despite Politicians

Politicians in Ireland have twice held referendums on changing from STV to FPTP, but voters have turned them down. Politicians were again looking at changing the system recently, but gave up because voters like it so much.

They of course won't say it directly of course, but many politicians would clearly prefer a system with less competition (which makes them work hard)!

Great News, Libby!

Great to hear you have decided to vote Yes. Absolutely, we need this change and we need it now. Thanks and please be as vocal as possible in your support.


Very Happy - Thank you.

Hi Libby,
As a woman, a minority and a constituent, I can't say how happy I am that you've decided to support STV.

I truly believe that voting for STV is the most important, positive and hopeful issue I'll get a chance to vote on in my lifetime. I voted for it the last time four years ago along with 58% of BC, and I've had that same STV yes sign in my yard ever since.

I do feel I understand STV, but as well am heartened to know that this system was chosen unanimously by an extremely democratic, nonpartisan and citizen-driven process - with a group of randomly chosen, one from each riding citizens who thoroughly evaluated the options.

I've heard you speak about how hard politics is for women, and I think that STV is an important step to changing our adversarial, women-unfriendly electoral process. I believe you to be a principled person, and I've voted for you whenever I've had the opportunity. I really believe you've made the right choice here.

Sophia Kelly

< a href=">Link to STV issues in depth web page

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