QUOTA    NOTES

 

 

Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia

 

 

                 QN2005B              June 2005       www.prsa.org.au

 

 

·         British Columbia Referendum: Over 57% Vote for ‘BC-STV’ - One 60% Hurdle Met

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Columbia Referendum: Over 57% Vote for ‘BC-STV’ - One 60% Hurdle Met

 

The voters of British Columbia gave their verdict on the proposal for a Hare-Clark proportional representation (PR) electoral system to replace the province’s existing system of single-member electoral districts, where first-past-the-post counting applies, at a referendum held in conjunction with the election for the 79-member unicameral Parliament of British Columbia on 17th May 2005.

 

The Liberal Government of the province had initiated the process that led to the referendum in response to widespread criticism of and disaffection with the existing electoral system. The New Democratic Party had remained in majority government at the 1996 election after obtaining 39.5% support compared with 41.8% for the Liberals, but was virtually wiped out at the 2001 election, the Liberal Party winning 77 of the 79 electoral districts, after gaining 57.6% of the vote.

 

The wording of the referendum proposal, and the type of PR system it proposed, which was termed BC-STV (British Columbia - Single Transferable Vote), had been decided by a “Citizens’ Assembly”. The Assembly was established under a quite novel, and enlightened law (See QN2004D). However, for the first time in the province’s history, a special majority of 60% overall, and majorities in at least 60% of the 79 electoral districts, were made requirements for a positive referendum result to become binding.

 

Some Australians - among them our longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies - have remarked on the difficulty of altering Australia’s Constitution, where a proposed alteration must be approved by both a simple majority (just over 50%) of voters overall, and a simple majority of voters in a simple majority of States to succeed. That double majority is child’s play compared with the difficulty of gaining a 60% double majority!

 

The table that follows summarizes the percentage of votes at the 2005 referendum in favour of the single-member system being replaced by the BC-STV system, and the percentages of votes for the three largest parties at the concurrent 2005 elections and the previous 2001 elections.

 

Option in the Ballots

Year

Provincial Vote (%)

EFFECT OF VOTE

YES in Referendum

2005

57.69

short of 60%, but won in nearly all seats

LiberalParty

2005

45.80

58.23% of seats

2001

57.62

97.47% of seats

New Democratic Party

2005

41.52

41.77% of seats

2001

21.56

2.53% of seats

GreensParty

2005

9.18

0.00% of seats

2001

12.39

0.00% of seats

Others

2005

3.50

0.00% of seats

2001

8.43

0.00% of seats

 

A most impressive feature of the referendum result was the extent to which the other demanding proviso for the referendum to become binding was exceeded. A majority was required in at least 47 of British Columbia’s 79 electoral districts. That was one more electoral district than the incoming Liberal Government won after attracting 45.8% support. The final outcome was that 77 of the 79 electoral districts recorded a YES vote.

 

The table overleaf details the referendum and the 2005 election results in each electoral district. It shows that, of the 16 districts where the YES vote exceeded 60% and is shown in bold type, the Liberal Government won 7. The remaining 9 were won by the New Democratic Party. Support levels between 57% and 60% were achieved in a further 23 districts. The two electoral districts where the NO vote won a slim majority appear with a bold border. In 61 of the 79 electoral districts (77%) the representative elected obtained less support (see the asterisks in the table below) than the YES referendum option in that district.

 

The Liberal Government had made clear the legal reality that if re-elected it would not be prevented from introducing BC-STV if the result of the referendum fell slightly short of one or other of the two special majority percentages of 60% that it had imposed.

 

Electoral District

2005

Referendum

2005

Elections

Yes

No

LIB

NDP

GREEN

Abbotsford-Clayburn

52.48

47.52

59.95

30.15

7.75

Abbotsford-Mount Lehman

50.90

49.10

57.55

31.16

6.91

Alberni-Qualicum

59.99

40.01

36.81

52.61*

7.19

Bulkley Valley-Stikine

55.80

44.20

48.30*

39.82

5.92

Burnaby-Edmonds

58.38

41.62

43.38

46.7*

9.91

Burnaby North

56.11

43.89

45.59*

45.31

7.71

Burnaby-Willingdon

57.08

42.92

44.00*

42.00

7.45

Burquitlam

58.82

41.18

46.39*

44.68

7.47

Cariboo North

58.57

41.43

45.55

47.28*

5.37

Cariboo South

53.13

46.87

45.27

45.99*

5.38

Chilliwack-Kent

54.96

45.04

57.14

32.84

8.30

Chilliwack-Sumas

55.12

44.88

57.36

30.97

8.28

Columbia River-Revelstoke

58.03

41.97

39.86

51.71*

8.44

Comox Valley

60.96

39.04

45.73*

43.11

9.21

Coquitlam-Maillardville

58.07

41.93

44.60

46.96*

6.31

Cowichan-Ladysmith

58.26

41.74

40.78

50.02*

6.96

Delta North

57.42

42.58

42.93

47.46*

7.75

Delta South

57.68

42.32

37.48*

23.97

4.65

East Kootenay

54.64

45.36

48.01*

43.72

8.27

Esquimalt-Metchosin

59.17

40.83

38.18

49.63*

10.57

Fort Langley-Aldergrove

54.29

45.71

59.13

29.07

9.68

Kamloops

49.54

50.46

47.58*

41.77

7.28

Kamloops-North Thompson

49.40

50.60

48.36*

40.00

7.01

Kelowna-Lake Country

55.73

44.27

50.37*

30.40

10.45

Kelowna-Mission

54.09

45.91

53.72*

31.82

12.85

Langley

55.58

44.42

52.18*

33.64

12.33

Malahat-Juan de Fuca

59.05

40.95

38.94

46.09*

9.65

Maple Ridge-Mission

57.16

42.84

44.30*

43.57

9.64

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

57.71

42.29

42.74

46.38*

7.36

Nanaimo

60.09

39.91

33.97

51.90*

11.51

Nanaimo-Parksville

56.85

43.15

51.42*

38.65

8.44

Nelson-Creston

67.29

32.71

26.73

58.80*

12.42

New Westminster

61.74

38.26

37.42

51.32*

9.37

North Coast

52.93

47.07

38.50

53.77

5.79

North Island

59.62

40.38

42.68

45.29*

7.40

North Vancouver-Lonsdale

63.78

36.22

44.51*

39.83

12.16

North Vancouver-Seymour

60.66

39.34

56.92*

29.78

11.81

Oak Bay-Gordon Head

59.69

40.31

47.52*

42.47

8.41

Okanagan-Vernon

58.27

41.73

43.20*

33.59

6.97

Okanagan-Westside

51.80

48.20

54.39

30.77

10.13

Peace River North

58.51

41.49

59.37

27.12

6.89

Peace River South

54.24

45.76

57.74

32.76

9.50

Penticton-Okanagan Valley

51.42

48.58

50.23*

37.52

9.82

Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain

57.78

42.22

43.70

48.14*

6.87

Port Moody-Westwood

57.48

42.52

53.75*

37.38

6.34

Powell River-Sunshine Coast

60.32

39.68

30.15

43.45*

25.78

Prince George-Mount Robson

57.61

42.39

41.06*

34.85

7.35

Prince George North

56.39

43.61

49.93*

36.32

7.79

Prince George-Omineca

55.11

44.89

51.71*

37.06

8.35

Richmond Centre

52.45

47.55

58.56

32.49

7.71

Richmond East

53.30

46.70

57.48

33.01

7.55

Richmond-Steveston

54.63

45.37

59.20

31.33

8.26

Saanich North and the Islands

61.41

38.59

43.66*

37.52

15.35

Saanich South

59.06

40.94

44.54

46.08*

7.26

Shuswap

52.79

47.21

46.96*

35.27

5.94

Skeena

56.19

43.81

45.32

48.12*

4.81

Surrey-Cloverdale

54.73

45.27

61.64

28.66

8.55

Surrey-Green Timbers

58.10

41.90

31.54

60.82

4.44

Surrey-Newton

58.03

41.97

34.89

57.89*

4.72

Surrey-Panorama Ridge

58.15

41.85

39.45

53.17*

6.30

Surrey-Tynehead

56.71

43.29

51.37*

40.36

4.67

Surrey-Whalley

57.80

42.20

30.57

55.00*

7.65

Surrey-White Rock

58.66

41.34

57.86*

26.40

10.72

Vancouver-Burrard

65.86

34.14

42.16*

42.12

12.98

Vancouver-Fairview

64.58

35.42

43.39

46.59*

8.88

Vancouver-Fraserview

52.06

47.94

47.80*

42.43

6.64

Vancouver-Hastings

61.68

38.32

32.18

54.61*

8.98

Vancouver-Kensington

56.67

43.33

42.29

49.97*

6.02

Vancouver-Kingsway

53.87

46.13

40.46

51.44*

6.21

Vancouver-Langara

51.65

48.35

56.55

32.65

8.01

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant

67.84

32.16

21.28

64.24*

10.23

Vancouver-Point Grey

64.24

35.76

45.98*

37.70

15.12

Vancouver-Quilchena

50.88

49.12

67.16

21.02

10.40

Victoria-Beacon Hill

67.91

32.09

30.58

57.03*

10.91

Victoria-Hillside

64.95

35.05

28.80

57.01*

12.02

West Kootenay-Boundary

59.08

40.92

27.96

60.26

7.06

West Vancouver-Capilano

57.03

42.97

68.27

18.15

12.33

West Vancouver-Garibaldi

62.63

37.37

50.35*

21.09

26.58

Yale-Lillooet

52.41

47.59

40.33

48.84*

9.11

Provincial Total

57.69

42.31

45.80

41.52

9.18

 

As the overall YES vote was so close to the 60% special majority, its supporters called on the Premier, Mr Gordon Campbell - the first Assembly leader to win consecutive terms in two decades - to proceed with electoral reform.

 

Australian electoral commentator, Malcolm Mackerras, visiting Ottawa several weeks before the poll, detected a good deal of federal interest in the outcome, and a general expectation of a majority against BC-STV, especially in the absence of an official BC-STV information campaign.

 

The Speech from the Throne when the new Parliament is opened in September 2005 will outline the Government’s legislative program. On election night, the Premier saw the strong positive early vote as showing "a real hunger to move and to look at ways of improving our system of electing our legislature.”

 

 

Thanking Contributors to the PRSA’s Donation to the BC-STV Campaign

 

The Proportional Representation Society of Australia appealed in QN2004D for contributions to let the PRSA assemble a worthwhile donation to the “Yes Campaign Committee” leading the campaign for a strong YES vote in Canada’s referendum in British Columbia on whether Hare-Clark type proportional representation would replace the existing single-member electorate system.

 

It is pleasing to report to members that the PRSA was able to make a donation of $A1,420 ($C1,344.60 on conversion before transfer) to the Yes Campaign Committee. That donation was gratefully received, not only for the practical financial assistance it represented, but also for the feeling of international recognition and support that it denoted.

 

The PRSA’s Victoria-Tasmania Branch contributed $500, the NSW Branch gave $150, and the balance was made up of contributions by the ACT Branch, the National Society, and individual members of PRSA Branches, including the Hon. Neil Robson, a former Tasmanian Minister administering that State’s Electoral Act.

 

 

Call for Nominations for Elections of PRSA Office-bearers for 2006-07

 

The Returning Officer is Mr Jim Randall, Secretary of the PRSA's NSW Branch. Under the PRSA Constitution the Returning Officer rotates among the Branch Secretaries. The order, by precedent, is Victoria-Tasmania, NSW, SA, WA, Queensland and the ACT. Nominations, for President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, need be signed by the candidate only, as consent to nomination, and must be with Mr Randall at GPO Box 3058 SYDNEY 2001 by 14th November 2005.

 

 

Victorian Redivision for Upper House PR

 

The Electoral Boundaries Commission of Victoria has begun its process of inviting written submissions from the public on proposed names for and boundaries of the eight electoral regions for the November 2006 elections for the Legislative Council (See QN2004D). The PRSA’s Victoria-Tasmania Branch made a written submission in April 2005, which was displayed on the Victorian Electoral Commission Web site.

 

The PRSAV-T submission recommended using broad geographical names for the eight regions, which were each formed by grouping 11 contiguous Assembly districts as compactly as possible. The Branch noted advantages of a more radial model, but concluded that a compact model would be more practical, and be much better received.

 

The Branch’s suggested names for the regions it proposed were Eastern Victoria, Western Victoria, Port Phillip East, Port Phillip West, Northern Central, Eastern Central, Southern Central and Eastern Ranges. The enrolment in each of those eight suggested regions differed from the mean enrolment by less that 2 per cent.

 

One proposed region, Western Victoria, included no Assembly districts from either the Melbourne metropolitan area or Geelong. The eleven Assembly districts that constituted the PRSAV-T’s suggested Eastern Victoria region included 9 that were not part of Melbourne or Geelong. The sheer size of the population of Melbourne and Geelong relative to the rest of Victoria ensured that the 6 other suggested regions consisted entirely of Assembly districts from Melbourne and Geelong.

 

 

UK House of Commons Polls: May 2005

 

Britain’s Labour Government retained a comfortable House of Commons majority (55.1% including the Independent Speaker) after its share of the UK vote fell from 40.7% in 2001 (see QN2001C), to 35.2% in 2005. Coupled with the relatively low turnout of 61.3%, this was the lowest level of expressed support for a government since the 1832 Reform Act, and prompted The Independent newspaper to begin a “Campaign for Democracy” spearheaded by a petition for proportional representation.

 

The table below (UK Electoral Commission data) shows the Opposition Conservative Party won 32.3% of the national vote, but won a slightly lower percentage of the seats. Other parties and candidates together, with their historically high percentage of the votes, slightly outdid the Conservatives, but won just 14.2% of the seats. Over 50% of all votes were for defeated candidates, and those votes were thus totally wasted.

 

In England, the Conservatives received slightly more votes than Labour, but won only 194 seats compared with Labour’s 286. The Liberal Democrats’ rise to 47 again left them with well under half the proportion suggested by their level of support. As in 2001, Labor dominated Scottish and Welsh seats, its support of around 40% in each case translating into some 70% of the seats: the Conservatives again won only one Scottish seat, but they broke through to take 3 in Wales.

 

PARTY

% VOTES

% SEATS

Labour Party

  35.22

  55.11

Conservative Party

  32.33

  30.65

Liberal Democrats

  22.05

    9.60

UK Independence Party

    2.28

    0.00

Scottish National Party

    1.52

    0.93

Democratic Unionist Party

    0.89

    1.39

Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nats.)

    0.64

    0.46

Sinn Fein

    0.64

    0.77

Ulster Unionist Party

    0.47

    0.15

Soc. Dem. & Labour Party

    0.46

    0.46

Others

    3.49

    0.46

 

The Blair Government’s election manifesto echoed its electoral reform words of 2001, “A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.” The Department for Constitutional Affairs was quietly told to review and report on electoral changes for the Scottish, Welsh and London Assemblies and the European Parliament to a Cabinet Sub-Committee. Questions in the new Parliament yielded little about intended public input or open processes in the review promised in 2001.

 

The Prime Minister insisted the review would not be a pointless exercise, but gave no assurance “that it will result in a referendum on proportional representation”. Sceptics may well see all this as embroidery on Labour’s reneging on the promise of a referendum on a fairer electoral system it made before it won office in 1997.

 

 

Submissions to Municipal Reviews

 

The PRSA’s Victoria-Tasmania Branch has made written Preliminary Submissions to the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for all but one of the 38 Representation Reviews of municipal electoral systems that it has conducted since March 2004. The PRSAV-T made a written Response Submission to the VEC’s Preliminary Report for twenty of those. The patchwork electoral arrangements now underway in Victorian local government were explained in QN2004B.

 

The Local Government Minister has so far accepted all the VEC’s Final Recommendations, which has resulted in 20 of the municipal electoral systems now having one or more multi-member electoral districts with an odd number of councillors per district, and having within each of those municipalities an equal number of councillors per district.

 

At the other extreme, there are only six municipalities where a purely single-member electorate arrangement was recommended and approved. The remaining municipalities have a variety of arrangements that include some wards with PR, and some not, and sometimes the wards were unfortunately established with an even number of councillors per ward.

 

 

Northern Territory Polls: Electoral System Severely Distorts Voters’ Representation

 

After the close outcome of 2001 (see QN2001C) and a redistribution whose boundary changes were minor, the elections in June 2005 for the 25 seats in the Northern Territory’s Legislative Assembly returned to the pattern of leaving an artificially attenuated Opposition.

 

On this occasion, support for the Martin Labor Government increased by over 11 percentage points to 51.9% while that for the Country Liberal Party, led again by Denis Burke after a period with Terry Mills at the helm, fell from 45.4% to 35.7%.

 

In the greater Darwin and Palmerston area that the CLP had dominated until their first-ever electoral loss, only Mr Mills retained his seat. Mr Burke was unseated despite having obtained over 60% of first preferences in 2001. The CLP won only three other seats, one in Katherine and two in the Alice Springs region. Two Independents were the only other non-Labor candidates elected.

 

Quota-preferential counting in five five-member electorates would have given Labor a comfortable majority as set out in the table below. CLP support in two of these electorates was so low that its second seat would have been in jeopardy. Eight electorates had just ALP and CLP candidates, while nine others had just a third, often from the Greens.

 

 

CLP

ALP

Green

Other

Casuarina, Fannie Bay,Millner, Nightcliff, Port Darwin

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

30.1

57.3

4.8

7.8

PR Seats

2

3

-

-

Actual Seats (Single-member)

-

5

-

-

Drysdale, Johnston, Karama,Sanderson, Wanguri

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

36.5

60.5

2.0

1.0

PR Seats

2

3

-

-

Actual Seats (Single-member)

-

5

-

-

Arafura, Blain, Brennan,Goyder, Nelson

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

37.5

37.8

5.1

19.6

PR Seats

2

2

-

1

Actual Seats (Single-member)

1

3

-

1

Arnhem, Barkly, Daly,Katherine, Nhulunbuy

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

31.6

61.9

2.8

3.6

PR Seats

2

3

-

-

Actual Seats (Single-member)

1

4

-

-

Araluen, Braitling, Greatorex,MacDonnell, Stuart

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

43.1

42.2

6.3

8.3

PR Seats

2

3

-

-

Actual Seats (Single-member)

2

2

-

1

NORTHERN TERRITORY

 

 

 

 

Votes (%)

35.7

51.9

4.2

8.2

PR Seats (%)

40

56

-

4

Actual Seats (%)

16

76

-

8

 

All governments, and those they govern, benefit from the scrutiny and development of alternative proposals that an Opposition party provides, and they are weakened when the Opposition strength is not adequate for that task.

 

This effect is particularly conspicuous in a very small body politic with a full spectrum of responsibilities such as the Northern Territory. The inadequacy of winner-take-all arrangements was demonstrated starkly on 18th June 2005.

 

 

© 2005 Proportional Representation Society of Australia

National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Cr. NARRABUNDAH 2604

National Secretary: Dr Stephen Morey 4 Sims Street SANDRINGHAM 3191

Tel: (02) 6295 8137, (03) 9598 1122  info@prsa.org.au

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