Long-time NDP supporter Bill Tieleman and former B.C. Liberal attorney general Suzanne Anton celebrate a win for the official No Proportional Representation campaign, which they co-chaired. (Twitter)

Election reform debate ‘finished’ in B.C., backers admit

Referendum rejection most decisive in rural regions

Rejected by more than 70 per cent in Fraser Valley and B.C. Interior seats, rising to more than 80 per cent in the Peace region, proportional representation is dead in B.C. for the foreseeable future, opponents and backers agree.

The scattering of constituencies that reached a majority in favour of the NDP government’s options were mostly in Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island, with Premier John Horgan’s home turf barely exceeding the 50 per cent approval required under rules set by the government and the B.C. Green Party

“Electoral reform is finished,” said Deputy Premier Carole James, speaking for the NDP government with Horgan out of the country on vacation by the time official results were released Thursday.

RELATED: B.C. voters reject proportional representation in third referendum

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B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who predicted last year that a move to proportional representation meant there would never be another B.C. Liberal government, downplayed his ardent support for changing the voting system when he spoke to reporters after the vote results.

Weaver rejected suggestions that the B.C. Greens remain relegated to “fringe party” status by the loss of proportional representation, which would have given the three-seat Greens as many as a dozen MLAs based on their 2017 result, 17 per cent of the popular vote spread thinly across most of B.C.

“We are not here playing House of Cards politics to try to get power,” Weaver said.

The B.C. Conservative Party, another likely beneficiary of proportional representation, also put a brave face on the result. The B.C. Liberals have dominated provincial politics by holding a coalition of federal Conservatives and Liberals together to compete against the NDP.

“The B.C. Conservatives will continue to be the only choice for British Columbians who can no longer take the tax and spend ways of the three major parties,” said Justin Greenwood, interim deputy leader of the B.C. Conservatives.

An Angus Reid exit poll released Friday found that rejection of proportional representation was closely aligned with regions that had supported the B.C. Liberals in the past. One of the highest was in Richmond, where support for the traditional first-past-the-post system ran to more than 70 per cent.

Leaders of the official No campaign were an unlikely team, former B.C. Liberal attorney general Suzanne Anton and Bill Tieleman, a long-time NDP supporter who led the referendum campaign against the harmonized sales tax in 2011.

This week’s result was the third referendum in modern times, after a single transferable vote (STV) system gained majority support in 2005, but failed narrowly under rules calling for 60 per cent support province-wide with majority support in every region.

A second STV referendum in 2009 was rejected by a similar margin to the 2018 result.

In its official information for voters, Elections B.C. described the proportional representation options as leading to more parties and more coalition governments.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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