The value of the all candidates meeting


Like most all candidates meetings Tuesday eveningÕs affair in the conference centre created approximately the same number of questions as it answered, although an all candidates meeting is still a useful exercise to get a feel for the local candidates. For many people it may be the only opportunity during an election to meet the candidates face to face. ItÕs also a chance to see how the candidates react to some pointed questions and how they respond to one another.

But one of the questions I was left with was how the all candidates meetings would be different four years from now if the single transferable vote system is approved in the May 17 referendum.

To start with, under STV we would have super-sized ridings with multiple MLAs elected in each riding. It is anticipated that the major parties would run as many candidates in a riding as there are seats in the Legislature for that riding. So assume for sake of argument West Vancouver-Garibaldi was re-aligned to include part of West Vancouver-Capilano and the Sunshine Coast ridings and this new super riding elected three MLAs. The Liberals, NDP and the Green Party would likely each have three candidates, equalling the total of nine candidates that contested West Vancouver-Garibaldi in the 1996 provincial election.

Because of the size and geography of the new riding all three candidates for each party might not make it to the all candidates meeting in Whistler, but if one party had two candidates for the meeting it seems likely the other two parties would send two candidates as well.

If there is an independent candidate or a representative of one of the smaller parties as the 10th person seeking election, time and travel logistics may dictate that that candidate concentrates their campaign efforts in the part of the riding where there are the most votes. The 10th candidate might not make it to an all candidates meeting in Whistler or Roberts Creek.

Now, if you are inclined to vote along party lines, it probably wonÕt matter that you donÕt get to see all the candidates at an all candidates meeting. But not everyone is going to vote that way. Some people donÕt want a government to be too strong; some people want to vote for the individuals they view as the best candidates regardless of their party affiliation.

Whether STV would strengthen or weaken party politics is open to debate. Many people see it as a means to end the pendulum swings in B.C. between the NDP and the Liberals, or whatever centre/right coalition party is most popular at the time. Some also see STV as increasing the likelihood of minority governments, leading to compromise among parties and perhaps independent MLAs in order to maintain a stable government.

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