British Columbia electoral reform referendum, 2009

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Following the 2005 electoral reform referendum, British Columbia held a second referendum on electoral reform in conjunction with the provincial election on May 12, 2009. As in 2005, voters were asked to express themselves on the BC-single transferable vote electoral system (BC-STV) proposed by the British Columbia Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform to ensure more proportional representation in the provincial Legislative Assembly. British Columbians were asked which electoral system should be used to elect legislators: the existing First-Past-the-Post electoral system or the proposed STV system.

The referendum was defeated, with 60.9% voting against the reform and 39.09% of voters supporting the change.[1] This represented a remarkable drop in the share of voters supporting reform. In 2005, 57.7% of the electorate had voted in favour of reform, including a majority of voters in 77 ridings out of 79.[2]

Scheduling[edit]

The government of British Columbia initially scheduled the second referendum to be conducted alongside the 2008 municipal elections. On April 26, 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell announced that the referendum date would be shifted to May 12, 2009. Conducting a referendum alongside the May provincial election was estimated to cost between $1 million and $2 million. The chief electoral officer had warned that a referendum in tandem with the municipal election would have cost up to $30 million. The chief electoral officer had also raised concerns regarding to adequacy of facilities, a shortage of trained voting officials, and differing voter eligibility requirements for local and provincial voters’ lists.[3]

Proposed electoral boundaries[edit]

In the 2005 referendum, voters cast ballots for or against BC-STV without knowing how the new system would affect their electoral ridings. This uncertainty led to voter concerns that, to create ridings large enough to support the multiple representatives preferred under BC-STV, ridings would be merged into unmanageably-large districts, particularly in the less densely populated north and interior of the province.

The post-election Speech from the Throne identified this as a critical piece to be addressed for the second referendum: "One task that was never assigned to the Citizens' Assembly was to show precisely how its proposed STV model might apply on an electoral map. This was arguably a design flaw in its terms of reference that in retrospect may have impacted how people voted in the referendum. Your government believes that establishing STV constituency boundaries may provide the public with a critical piece of information that was missing at the time of the referendum."[4]

The ensuing electoral boundaries redistribution prompted significant controversy for reasons largely unrelated to the BC-STV system, and on several occasions it seemed possible that the commission's work, including its STV recommendations, might be rejected altogether. Ultimately, a bipartisan agreement between the governing Liberals and opposition New Democrats saw the passage of the Electoral Districts Act, 2008 on April 10, 2008, which implemented, with modification, the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission. 20 STV electoral districts returning a total of 85 MLAs were accordingly established.

Question[edit]

In 2005 voters had been asked: "Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?"

But in 2009 they were asked:

Which electoral system should British Columbia use to elect members to the provincial Legislative Assembly?
▪ The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post)
▪ The single transferable vote electoral system (BC-STV) proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform

This change in wording reflected the wording used in the 2007 Ontario electoral reform referendum and puts the two options on a more even keel.

Campaigns[edit]

Legislation to allow a second referendum on an alternative electoral system, the Electoral Reform Referendum 2009 Act, was introduced in the provincial legislature on March 8, 2008 by Attorney-General Wally Oppal.[5]

Public funding will be available to groups who are supporters or detractors of both the single transferable vote (STV) and the current first-past-the-post election systems. Through the chief electoral officer, registered groups will be given funds to provide information and educational material about their positions.[5] Each side will have access to a total of $500,000 in public funding and an equivalent amount will fund a neutral public information campaign.

On January 12, 2009, the Attorney General issued an information bulletin[6] announcing the proponent and opponent groups. The officially recognized proponent group was Fair Voting BC, which operated under the campaign name 'British Columbians for STV',[7] while the recognized opponent group is the No STV Campaign Society led by Bill Tieleman, which will campaign under the name 'No STV'.[8] The Citizens' Assembly Alumni group[9] represents the bulk of the original Citizens' Assembly members[10] who are still playing an active role in promoting their recommendation; this group is working in close cooperation with Fair Voting BC.

Results[edit]

The referendum would have required 60 per cent overall approval and 50 per cent approval in at least 60 per cent of the province's electoral districts in order to succeed. If the vote had been in favour of STV, the new electoral system would have been scheduled to be in place for B.C.’s 2013 election.[5] However, the province's voters defeated the change with only 39.09% of 1 651 139 votes considered (55% participation) in favour.

Opinion polls[edit]

On April 15, Yes for BC-STV published a press release [11] stating that an Angus Reid Poll, conducted between March 9 to 12, showed 65% support for BC-STV but that awareness for the referendum was at 44%.[citation needed]

Other Wikipedia entries[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elections BC (May 12, 2009). Statement of Votes Referendum on Electoral Reform. p. 20. 
  2. ^ Elections BC (May 17, 2005). Statement of Votes - Referendum on Electoral Reform. p. 9. 
  3. ^ "Statement" (Press release). Office of the Premier. 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  4. ^ "Speech from the Throne, 2005 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 38th Parliament". Hansard. Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  5. ^ a b c "Second referendum planned on electoral reform" (Press release). Ministry of Attorney General and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  6. ^ http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2005-2009/2009AG0002-000035.htm
  7. ^ "British Columbians for STV". Retrieved 2009-01-13. [dead link]
  8. ^ "No STV". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  9. ^ "Citizens' Assembly Alumni". Retrieved 2009-01-13. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform". Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  11. ^ http://stv.ca/node/810[dead link]