I have kind of an ambitious plan for this blog over the next few weeks, I want to give my thoughts on both the referendums, the mayoral contest, both the West and East Ward for council and the Hamilton candidates for the Regional Council. I’m putting up my thoughts on the referendums today with hopefully the Mayoral and at least one of the Wards out before the papers are posted out on the 20th. Unfortunately there are a lot of candidates so this project will take a bit of research and possibly some long posts but I’m already getting allot of visitors to this site searching for info about the local government candidates.
So for those of you in the know there are two referendums happening along with this election, the first is for our electoral system and the second is on whether to add fluoride to our water or not.
For local government elections we have two choices, STV or FPP,* the reason that there is only two options is because proportional systems can’t work when we don’t have parties and FPP and STV are the common choices amongst the plurality and preferential systems. For me, this is an easy choice, STV. This is mostly because in STV strategic voting is pointless, the best way to get the result that you want is to vote for that. Over the past month I have had a few people come up to me and ask me who is most likely to beat Julie Hardaker because they want to vote against her most effectively, in STV there is no need for these people to guess who is most likely to beat Hardaker, they would just have to rank everyone they thought was better above her.
The other major reason I support STV is because it ensures that every vote counts. To continue discussing the mayoral contest as an example the mayor that is elected must have more support from all voters than the second most popular candidate. In FPP however the mayor only has to be the first choice of more voters than the second most popular candidates, it is quite possible for a mayor to be elected when most of the voters would have chosen a single other person if it was only a two person race.
For council seat elections with 6 candidates it gets more complicated but the principal that the elected candidates have to be the preferred 6 using the votes of all voters stands. This does bring up another interesting point in favour of STV. Lets consider a hypothetical election in which 40% of the voters want ticket A, 30% want ticket B and 30% want independents candidates, under FPP the result would be that ticket A would win all 6 of the seats provided that they stood six candidates. Under STV the two or three most popular candidates from ticket A would be elected along with the most popular one or two from ticket B and the independents. STV clearly gives us a more proportional council and minimises the risk of council being captured by unpopular factions.
Against all this the only advantage of FPP is that it is easier for voters to manage.
This is a harder decision for me, I’ll probably be voting against water fluoridation but I’m not that happy about my vote.
The main reason I would prefer to not add fluoride to the water (ie. leave it at natural levels) is because of what I read in the York Report which is a meta study of the research on water fluoridation in the 20th century. Their findings were that adding fluoride probably reduced tooth decay by around 14%** and had no significant side effects. In the same report it also demonstrated however that ensuring better dental health care, decreasing poverty or improving peoples diets would have a greater effect on reducing tooth decay. The council spends $48,000 a year on fluoridating water and I think that if we really wanted to reduce tooth decay than this money would be better spent getting a part time dental nurse to go around visiting Hamilton schools like they used to. Which just makes me wonder why this is the City Council’s responsibility anyway, it really seems like something the DHB should be doing and it might also generate more interest in their elections.
Speaking of the DHB they has claimed that this will cost us $500,000 in increased dental costs compared to the $48,000 per annum that we currently spend on adding fluoride, however this seems to have been taken down from their website :(. Instead the summary the DHB is putting in with the voting papers says that this decision will ultimately cost us $100,000’s which you would note is non time specific and could be rapidly overtaken by the cost of fluoridating. I did find this article in which the DHB claims that more than $1 million has been saved in Hamilton due to water fluoridation since 1966 however at the rate of $40,000 per year since then that the article cites we would have spent $1.88 million, so I can’t help but conclude that the cost is at best equal to the gains.
I tried to look up some studies on cost effectiveness but I didn’t have access to any of the studies the ministry of health cited and its 4:09 am as I write this so I’m not doing any more than that, its a shame but I’ll have to go with my own guesses.
The reason that I am uncomfortable with my vote is because it associates me with absolutely bat-shit insane people. The people that are vocal about opposing water fluoridation are clearly wrong and have a very warped perception of science, both the method and the community and a terrible viewpoint on their fellow citizens and elected representatives. I feel that I’m fairly well informed on this topic and that my stance is rational based on the evidence I have seen and will change if different evidence becomes available, but somehow I have ended up with the crazy people. Disturbing.
*Well technically bloc voting but everyone just calls it FPP, the only difference between the two is that FPP is only for single seat electorates while bloc voting is used in multi seat electorates.
**95% range over decent studies of a reduction in cavities between -5% and 63% with a median of 14.1% and an inter quartile range from 5% to 22%, the reduction was somewhere between 0.5 decay free teeth and 4.4 decay free teeth. Also for the equity argument they point out that this reduction is flat across social classes, the reduction is the same for the wealthy as for the poor.