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None of the above

Photo by Sarah Cordingley

By only

Friday February 11, 2005

A voyage into the themepark of the soul

You don’t care about the Citizen’s Assembly. You, rationally, see some booklet in your mailbox or hear some spokes-asshole from the BC Liberals and immediately choke back vomit. But this is different. As a fuck-up or someone losing a bet, the BC government is advocating something positive: the snappily named Single Transferable Ballot.

Right now, if you voted, you would see a list of people running for office. Whomever gets the most votes wins the seat –that’s where it gets squirrelly. If 40 per cent of the voters vote Liberal, 39 per cent vote NDP, and 21 per cent throw away their vote to the Greens and the Conservatives, it means that the least loser wins. You can win a seat with 40 per cent of the vote, even though 60 per cent voted against you.

The Single Transferable Ballot is a top-ten list of voting. You still see your list of candidates but you mark them in order of preference from 1 to 10. At the ballot box, the computers add up all the “1”’s. If no-one gets more than half, then the person with the fewest votes is dropped and all the “2”’s are added. Then the “3”’s. Eventually some sap will have more than half the vote and bourgeois democracy is safe one more day before the revolution comes.

The last time BC tried to queer the vote was in the early 1970s when Whistler was being born. Unlike most cities, Whistler was, from the beginning, an experiment in having a corporation run the city for the benefit of citizens. The original plan was to have the property owners elect 40 per cent of the council, the ski hill operators elect 40 per cent of the council and the people who live there elect the remaining 20 per cent. Had it worked, this would eventually be the template for running cities all over BC, with the local big employers replacing the ski-hill operators. And it almost came to pass – but then the government got cold feet and set up Whistler like a normal city. However, the official name is Resort Municipality Of Whistler – the only Resort Municipality in BC – a remnant of the planned corporate control.
DisneyWorld in Florida is an example of the way Whistler was planned to operate. The theme park owned thousands of square miles of property near Orlando, Florida – in fact, every square inch of a county-like area called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. As property owners – like in BC – they were entitled to vote for the local council. However, as the only property owners, Disney gets to elect the entire council. The “council members” live in a trailer park on Disney land and are the only residents. In return, Disney gets a state-licensed police force, access to all government databases, public funding for roads and buildings and no dissent.

But Canada has always been cavalier about voting. Only ten years before the Whistler debacle, Canada finally allowed Natives to vote. Until 1960, it was illegal for Natives to vote and, just to fuck with them, the government made it illegal for Natives to hire a lawyer to go to court and fight for the right to vote.

Ten years before that –a mere 50 years ago – it was Chinese-Canadians turn. Anyone who feels superior over Americans denying Southern blacks the vote doesn’t realize that at the same time Canada barred Chinese voting everywhere.
For the next ninety days, you’ll be hearing more and more of this – mostly from the smaller, loser parties who believe they will finally get a voice and a paycheque in the legislature. On May 17, during the provincial election, you’ll be asked to vote in a referendum on whether to adopt the Single Transferable ballot for the subsequent election. Only suggests you close your eyes and think of Mickey.