STV supporters may take the initiative
Referendum got 57.4 per cent support, government to review idea

By Jeff Nagel
Published May 26th 2005 in The Richmond Review
Single-transferable vote advocates say they will consider launching an initiative under provincial law to force a new referendum on electoral reform if Victoria doesn't act by year's end. Bruce Hallsor, co-chair of the Yes committee, says he's optimistic Premier Gordon Campbell will move towards a more proportional voting system. The May 17 referendum got 57.4 per cent support, just short of its 60 per cent requirement. But failing a political solution, he said an initiative under the province's Recall and Initiative Act would be one alternative.

"We're definitely looking at that," Hallsor said. "If the new government doesn't show any commitment to it, that's one option we're going to have to look at to force their hand."
Citizens have tried to use that legislation in B.C. before, notably in a failed effort to force a provincial referendum to ban bear hunting.

The threshold isn't easy. First, a group has to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each riding of the province within a 90-day window.

If the petition stage succeeds, a referendum on the question is put forward. It succeeds if 50 per cent of registered voters vote Yes-and it passes in two-thirds of ridings. That may sound like a slam dunk for STV, which just passed in 77 out of 79 ridings, but there's a catch. The initiative legislation threshold is 50 per cent of registered voters-not votes cast.

Under Initiative Act rules, last Tuesday's referendum results wouldn't have even been close, because the 926,000 Yes votes counted amount to only about 33 per cent of the more than 2.7 million registered voters in B.C.

Put another way, electoral reformers would have to either dramatically boost voter turnout, or else convince more than 450,000 of the 688,000 No voters to switch sides to deliver 50 per cent of registered voters.
Another quirk of the legislation says an initiative vote can only be held on a specific day-the last Saturday in
September-once every three years.

The next shot at a citizen-driven referendum is coming up fast on Sept. 24, 2005, after which advocates might as well put down their pens and petitions until 2008.

Electoral reformers would have to start rolling with a 90-day petition campaign almost immediately.
Even if petitioners meet all requirements and win their referendum, the government must introduce a bill in the legislature. However, there is no requirement to pass it.

Support for STV in Richmond was 52 per cent in Richmond Centre, 54.5 per cent in Richmond-Steveston and 53.1 per cent in Richmond East.