British Columbia

B.C. votes to keep first-past-the-post electoral system

For the third time, British Columbians have voted to keep the first-past-the-post system for provincial elections.

'I think electoral reform is finished,' says deputy premier Carole James

B.C.'s deputy premier Carole James says the people have spoken and the issue of electoral reform is finished. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

For the third time, British Columbians have voted to keep the first-past-the-post system for provincial elections.

Elections BC announced the results Thursday, saying 61.3 per cent of ballots had been cast in favour of the status quo, while proportional representation got 38.7 per cent.

Premier John Horgan said he was disappointed by the outcome but respected the decision.

"British Columbians have now spoken and chosen to stick with the current voting system. This referendum was held because we believe that this decision needed to be up to people, not politicians," Horgan said in a news release.

The responses to the first question in B.C's referendum ran 61.3 per cent in favour of the current electoral system. (Tamara Baluja/CBC)

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson applauded the results, saying they represented "the power of democracy," but also slammed the referendum as a whole.

"This was a flawed process from the beginning as the NDP stacked the deck to satisfy the Green Party and remain in power. This was never been about improving our democracy, it was always about power and control," Wilkinson said in a statement. 

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson reacts to the results of electoral reform referendum:

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson reacts to the results of electoral reform referendum. 0:50

The referendum was part of the confidence and supply agreement the NDP struck with the Green Party to secure its support of the minority government.

For his part, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who campaigned on a platform that included proportional representation, echoed Horgan's disappointment, but said the results of the referendum were not a "dealbreaker."

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver reacts to referendum results:

B.C. Greens leader Andrew Weaver reacts to referendum results. 0:45

"I don't see it as a fail or a loss," Weaver said.

"The reality is Elections B.C. ran a very, very fine process. People had the opportunity to seek information if they wished it ... We must respect those results."

Both Weaver and deputy premier Carole James said their respective parties will not be raising the issue of electoral reform soon.

Deputy premier Carole James addresses media after proportional representation is voted down:

NDP Minister of Finance Carole James addresses media after proportional representation is voted down. 0:37

"I think electoral reform is finished," James said. "I think people were engaged in the process. We committed to making sure the public had a voice and from our perspective, we move on, and keep the good work going." 

The deadline for all ballots to be received in the mail-in referendum passed on Dec. 7.

Once again, B.C. voters have rejected moving to a system of proportional representation. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Voters were asked whether they would prefer to keep the existing first-past-the-post system or move to one of three forms of proportional representation. Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) received the most support, with 41 per cent of ballots listing it as the first preference. Dual member proportional received 29.45 per cent of the vote, and rural-urban proportional representation (RUP) received 29.31 per cent.

Top proportional representation ridings:

These were the ridings in B.C. with the highest proportion of people who voted for proportional representation. (Tamara Baluja/CBC)

Top first-past-the-post ridings:

These were the ridings in B.C. with the highest proportion of people who voted for first past the post. (Tamara Baluja/CBC)

A majority of those in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Kamloops, Prince George and Kelowna voted against proportional representation. The Greater Victoria area, the west Kootenay region and the northern half of the City of Vancouver favoured change.

Find out which type of proportional representation your riding favoured using this map:

There was also a correlation between the popular vote for the B.C. Liberals and a higher vote for first-past-the-post:

There was a correlation in ridings where the popular vote went to the B.C. Liberals and those who voted first-past-the-post. (Tamara Baluja/CBC)

In the end, 42.6 per cent of eligible voters returned their ballots in time to be counted, according to Elections B.C. A simple majority would have been enough to change the voting system for provincial elections.

A total of 1.39 million ballots were cast in the referendum; 2,461 were rejected.

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