Vote-splitting, privilege, BC Green party, “voting conscience” and first-past-the-post elections


Dear British Columbians, especially youth voters:

I’m an environmentalist, and I have been feeling the need to state that if you vote BC Green in the BC election on May 9, it is very likely you will help re-elect the far-right BC Liberals (unless you are on Southern Vancouver Island). I am terrified of another 4 years of the BC Liberals. I say this having done decades of environmental work in BC. My choices in BC politics are fundamentally and profoundly pro-environment; I’m more or less a non-partisan eco-socialist. This election I’m recommending that people who care about the environment vote NDP.  The reason I think it’s destructive to vote Green in this election or to “vote your conscience” is twofold:

  1. Our electoral system is not designed to make votes for third parties count. “Voting your conscience” only works in proportional representation systems, and BC does not have a proportional representation system (though the NDP have promised to bring that in if elected). BC’s system is first-past-the-post, aka FPTP. Here is a really good, short explanation of how BC’s FPTP electoral system works, by my friend Julian:“First-past-the-post is fundamentally flawed. It is not a system where everyone is meant to vote for what they believe. It is explicitly designed to encourage people to vote for the leading parties. This is in the name of “stable government.” You can disagree with that as a value, but it is what is underpinning the design of the system. There are other systems which are intended to encourage people to vote for what they believe. But British Columbia does not have one… John Horgan’s commitment (leader of the provincial NDP party) to bring in proportional representation is the best reason for people who support the Green Party to vote for the NDP. If the NDP keep this promise, then one term of NDP majority government will be followed by NDP/Green coalitions.” Just because Justin Trudeau reneged on his promise to reform the electoral system doesn’t mean the NDP will; it’s in their interest to put it in. 
  2. The BC Greens, who have one MLA currently, its leader Andrew Weaver, are not eco-socialist or particularly radical. (Some members might be, and the platform is fine, though since they cannot form government it will never be implemented.) But their leader and only ML is certainly not to the left of the NDP. Andrew Weaver is a neoliberal who voluntarily campaigned for the BC Liberals before taking over the BC Green party. Now Weaver has refused to say he would not form a coalition with a BC Liberal minority government. I know many Greens personally and many are very upset about this, some even saying they are voting NDP on May 9. Please notice the silence of many Greens who ran provincially in the last election. All is not well. One last point about Weaver: he proudly backed BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell’s destructive Independent Power Projects, non-green projects which were run by private power companies belonging to cronies of the BC Liberals. The BC Liberals then forced BC Hydro to buy the uneconomically expensive power produced by these IPPs, which created a massive debt that now sits on all BC citizens: $20 billion dollars (possibly more; it’s hidden). Moody’s credit agency just warned that this debt threatens not only BC Hydro’s credit rating, but that of the entire province. Weaver’s lack of judgment is troubling.

FINAL NOTE: Voting isn’t about feelings or self-expression. It’s not the place to express our idealism. It’s about protecting others from the predations of poverty, environmental destruction, and lack of medical care and education. “Voting your conscience” is only about self regard, and only the privileged can afford that. Conscience must be about the needs of others, or it’s not really conscience, is it? Real things are at stake for real people who are already stretched to the limit, suffering some of the worst inequality in the country.

Thank you for reading! Please, get everyone you know to vote, and please ask them to vote extremely carefully. Outside Vancouver Island, the Greens don’t really have a chance in any ridings.

However, do ask your BC Liberal friends to vote Green!

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This blog post by a Twitter friend, saying something similar but entertainingly written, and this video:

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