Vote-reform supporters vow to continue STV fight
Advocates encounter obstacle in NDP leader Carole James, who prefers a different solution

By Brad Badelt
Published May 23rd 2005 in Vancouver Sun
Supporters of the single transferrable vote, or STV, will regroup this week for the first time since Tuesday's referendum loss.

Their biggest challenge could be winning over Carole James. The NDP leader, who voted against STV, said she wants a mixed proportional system, under which only a portion of the MLAs are elected proportionally.

But STV supporters say other electoral systems aren't on the table.

"I don't see anything procedure-wise that's putting mixed proportional back on the stage at this point," said Julian West, one of the leaders of the YES campaign. "Nobody went out and campaigned on the basis that a [referendum] result like this would be a mandate to do that.

"I think the Citizen's Assembly made a very careful and reasoned decision. They supported it in the report and I think they continue to support the STV."

Jack Blaney, chairman of the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform that proposed the STV, agreed. "The vote of assembly members was four to one for the STV. That work was well done and it was fairly conclusive."

The STV system, under which voters rank multiple candidates in larger multi-candidate ridings, fell three percentage points short of the 60-per-cent majority needed to pass.

"I didn't feel that STV was the direction to go," said James, whose Victoria-Beacon Hill riding voted 68 per cent in favour of STV.

"I think mixed member, proportional representation meets the needs of the population of British Columbia," she said Wednesday.

The STV referendum was the first vote in Canada on replacing the traditional first-past-the-post system -- where the winner is the person who gets the most votes, even if it is not a majority.

Despite the loss, West sees the result as a clear indication that STV enjoys broad support.

"Obviously, we've come very close to the 60 per cent and the premier has said we've got a strong mandate," West said. "So we have to just take stock of where we are."

A small group of STV campaigners will hold a conference-call Wednesday to discuss getting a second referendum, West said. More education will be needed, especially in the Interior, where support for STV was lowest, before another vote, he added.

"I think a lot of the no vote in the Interior was because of the fear of larger constituencies. I think if they'd felt assured that we were looking at three- or four-seat districts ... we would have seen a better result."

Another YES campaigner, Michael Wortis, says he wrote James after the referendum.

"I told her I voted NDP and I voted STV," Wortis said, "and I'd have a difficult time voting for the NDP [again] if they don't take up the STV issue."

The retired SFU professor said he used to favour the mixed proportional system but was converted to the STV.

"I think it's a better system in that it succeeds in having everybody selected by the voters," Wortis said, noting that party leaders would select the proportional representatives under a mixed proportional system.