Premier Addresses Electoral Reform

By Andru McCracken
Published September 21st 2005 in Robson Valley Times
In a September 12 news release, Premier Gordon Campbell said that he is in no position to deny that a double majority of provincial voters were in favour of the Single Transferable Vote system, and so another vote on whether to reform the province’s electoral system will be held on November 2008, in time for provincial elections the following spring.

A referendum held on May 17, 2005 during the last provincial election found that 57.69% of voters across the province voted in favour of changing the current electoral system from the current system, to a system called Single Transferable Vote (locally the average was higher, 59.4%).

While the referendum found that many more voters were in favor of the new system than those opposed, the referendum did not pass because rules set by government before the referendum required 60% support.

What would Single Transferable Vote system (or STV) really look like?

Campbell acknowledged that the results might have been different if voters were aware of how STV would have changed the shape of their riding. As a result, his government will have the Electoral Boundaries Commission establish what the ridings will look like by spring 2008.

A more informed choice

“We have listened to comments that the public wants more information about electoral reform. Showing voters what their riding would look like under the STV model may provide a critical piece of information that was missing at the time of the referendum,” said Campbell.

The government will also provide equal funding to support information campaigns for supporters and detractors of each model. Campbell has said that all MLAs including cabinet ministers will be free to speak and vote as they wish on the issue, save the premier who will remain neutral.

“The 161 members of the Citizens’ Assembly spent over a year considering electoral reform and they came to their conclusion after intensive investigation and public consultation,” said Campbell. “A sizeable majority of British Columbians reflected on their recommendations and voted to support it.”

“We cannot ignore the assembly’s work or that majority,” he said.

Campbell said that government would not redo the work of the assembly or impose a system of the government’s choosing.

“We are going to continue being a leader in democratic reform by giving the people of B.C. a second, definitive, vote on the electoral system,” he said.

Rick Dignard participated in the Citizens’ Assembly and subsequently in the Know-STV campaign (which was against the new system),

Dignard said that people should have had the opportunity to vote for the mixed member proportional system found many places around the world. He said the majority of British Columbian’s who made presentations to the Citizens’ Assembly asked for this system.

“…At the very least, people should have had that as an option,” he said.

He said that the process was engineered to come up with only one alternative. “The politicians did that and that was one flaw,” he said.

He would like to see people offered three choices, MMP, STV, and the present system.

He is happy that the government will fund an educational program about the STV system.

“People will be able to get the true scope of both systems,” he said.

He had hoped that the government would regard the massive support shown for STV as a movement towards electoral reform, not necessarily an endorsement of the system itself.

In November 2008, the Single Transferable Vote will continue to need a double majority:

To pass, at least 60% of the valid votes province-wide needs to be in favour of the referendum, and the referendum also needs to receive the support of more than 50% of the valid votes in at least 48 (60%) of the 79 electoral districts.

In the last referendum, STV received 57.69% of the popular vote and received more than 50% support in 77 of 79 electoral districts.

Co-chairs of the Citizens’ Assembly Alumni Shoni Field and David Wills are pleased with the government’s decision, although they say requiring a 60% double majority means that the minority may be more valued that the majority.

They said that the government’s support of general education on the system and funding for supporters and detractors of both systems is a good thing.

Wills and Field are also calling for someone with a strong understanding of STV to participate in the Electoral Boundary Commission.