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STV referendum falls short, but fight continues

Three major parties acknowledge support for electoral reform

Results were still coming in, but barring a sudden shift in the tallies, the referendum to switch from the current First Past the Post system to the Single Transferable Vote system appears to have fallen short.

In order to be successful, 60 per cent of the popular vote, as well as more than half of voters in 48 ridings would have had to vote "yes".

At press time, with 50 of 79 ridings completing their counts, approximately 57 per cent of all voters backed the switch to STV, with majorities of over 50 per cent in all but two ridings.

The Yes for B.C.-STV campaign acknowledged defeat, but pledged to keep fighting.

"A clear majority of British Columbians have voted for change, and we will be calling upon the government to implement that change in time for the 2009 election," said Bruce Hallsor and Julian West, co-chairs for the campaign.

"With the benefit of hindsight, I believe it is time for the government to reconsider the highly unusual requirement of a 60 per cent threshold for electoral reform," added Hallsor. "Prince Edward Island, New Zealand and Ireland all used 50 per cent as the threshold for their electoral reform referendums. We are not aware of any jurisdiction in the world that has set the bar at 60 per cent.

"Unless this is reviewed, we are facing the prospect of conducting the next election with a system that has been clearly rejected by the voters of British Columbia. This is really an untenable situation, which I expect the government will want to correct."

Premier Gordon Campbell acknowledged the results of the referendum, and promised to address the issue. "You know citizens have been pretty clear, there’s a pretty strong mandate there for the electoral reform to take place," he told reporters in Vancouver. "I do think we should wait until we get the final results in, but I think with the final results, we should bring that to the Legislature and review where we may go from there."

NDP leader Carole James suggested that another Citizen’s Assembly could be formed that re-evaluates all the proportional representation systems, including the STV, and that another referendum could be held as part of the province-wide municipal elections this fall.