Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.
“My friends, my fellow mushrooms….For all of our lives they’ve been keeping us in the dark! They’ve been feeding us bullshit!” A political career was born earlier this week, and it belongs to one Marvin Mushroom. Marvin proved himself a fearsome candidate: quick-witted, righteously indignant, born speech-maker. Marvin was campaigning, of course, for mushrooms to feature prominently on the assembled voters’ pizza, and he drew a hearty round of applause after making his case.
If you are hopelessly confused right now you must not have been at Tranzac Monday night, when Fair Vote Canada hosted a discussion of the Single Transferable Vote (STV), a system of preferential voting which election reform advocates are hoping to pass in BC later this spring. STV is one of a number of systems geared towards providing proportional representation—to ensuring that the allocation of seats in a political assembly (provincial parliament, in this case) closely matches the distribution of the popular vote. Contrast this with the current first past the post system, in which a party can secure a majority of seats in parliament with a minority of the popular vote. (Political keeners will recall that Ontario faced its own debate on proportional representation recently, though “debate” is perhaps a strong word given how little attention was paid to the subject.)
And how, you may be wondering, did a name-tag-wearing, vote-pursuing mushroom enter the scene? Marvin and his cohort (including Fred Feta and Peter Pineapple) were part of a demonstration, a real-time election simulation designed to make the nuances of each voting system vivid. Torontoist, politically geeky as always, decided to brush up on its social studies and took part in this little bit of educational theatre.
Stuart Parker discussing STV. Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.
According to STV, electoral districts each have multiple representatives, and citizens cast their votes for a ranked list of their preferred candidates. Once a candidate has received enough votes to be elected, any surplus votes they may have received are redistributed according to the subsequent preferences of the people that voted for them. For instance: if I ranked Marvin Mushroom number one on my ballot, but he has more than enough votes to secure a seat, my second choice candidate, Fred Feta, will be pick up some ground in the competition for the remaining seat(s) in my district.
So why was a crowd of Torontonians assembled to discuss a referendum being held in BC? Fair Vote Canada is pulling out all the stops on this one, trying to encourage activists to travel west and advocate for STV in the upcoming weeks. Proportional representation proposals have been floated, and defeated, in several provinces over the last few years, and election reformers are starting to feel like the May 12 referendum may be their last stand. Said Parker: “The reality is that our movement may not be able to take another defeat…the entire national movement for voting reform is of the opinion that we need this win.”