Stone calls pro-rep outcome ‘a resounding defeat’

Last month, British Columbians voted 61 per cent in favour of keeping first-past-the-post electoral system

The third time’s the charm for ending the proportional representation debate in B.C., according to Todd Stone, who sees a volatile and fluid 2019 for B.C. politics.

The Kamloops South Thompson MLA, who said he’s supported the first-past-the-post system in past referendums, believes “the issue of electoral reform has been put to bed by British Columbians for a

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very long time.”

“We’ve had three votes in 13 years [with] three defeats — this most recent one a resounding defeat. I don’t think there’s any appetite amongst British Columbians to address this question anytime soon,” the B.C. Liberal MLA said.

Results of the mail-in referendum showed 61.3 per cent of ballots (845,235) choosing to remain with the first-past-the-post system and 38.7 per cent (533,518) opting in favour of switching to

a proportional representation form of

electing MLAs.

Compared to the number of registered voters, 26 per cent of voters voted in favour of keeping the first-past the post system. About 16 per cent voted in favour of proportional representation.

A total of 1,403,358 ballots were returned to Elections BC.

Given the results showing 61 per cent of respondents against proportional representation, Stone said revisiting the issue of voter reform is not going to be high on the Liberal party’s priority list moving forward.

“There’s no political party out there, if they value respecting the voters wishes, that’s going to make electoral reform a priority — including our party,” Stone said, noting it is worth discussing how to make the legislature work better.

“There’s lots of different ideas that have been floated as to how we can strengthen the voices of all 87 MLAs,” Stone said.

“There should be more free votes on issues, there should be more opportunities for private members to introduce opposition private member bills and actually have those bills called for debate.

“There’s, perhaps, improvements that can be made to the committee structure and the requirement for legislation to be subjected to more scrutiny at the committee stage.”

Presently, most private member bills in B.C. never see the light of day because they have to be called by the government’s house leader for debate, Stone said.

He believes his party would welcome a discussion with the other parties and British Columbians in general regarding how they could go about implementing those procedural changes.

Stone said he voted for first-past-the-post because of it’s ability to form majority governments.

B.C. residents voted in 2005, 2009 on whether or not to keep the current voting system or move to a form of proportional representation.

Under first-past-the-post a candidate or party is selected by achieving a simple majority whereas with proportional representation the number of seats a party gains is proportionate to the number of votes it receives.

The first two referendums, held under Liberal governments, failed to meet the threshold for change — just barely in 2005, when 57.7 per cent voted in favour of proportional representation, just missing the government’s 60 per cent hurdle.

In 2009, support for pro-rep dropped to 39 per cent.

The rules were changed for 2018’s vote by the current NDP government, dropping the 60 per cent threshold in favour of a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one.

— with files from the Vancouver Sun

© Kamloops This Week


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