British Columbia

Proportional representation advocate calls for ranked ballot system for Vancouver

London, Ont. is the first Canadian city to use a ranked ballot system in their civic election. Keith Poore with 123 Vancouver says his city should do the same.

Electoral reform remains divisive issue in B.C.

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart says a form of proportional representation could be coming to his city. If so, a ranked ballot system could be one of the options. (Peggy Lam/ CBC)

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart says the outcome of B.C.'s 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform could shape the future of democracy in the city.

B.C. residents are set to receive mailed ballots for a chance to vote in a referendum that could change the provincial voting system. The ballots include the question of whether the current first-past-the-post system should be kept or changed to a system of proportional representation (PR).

Stewart has pledged to mirror the province's decision, saying he'll push for a PR voting system in the next municipal election if Vancouver residents vote in favour of PR in the province-wide vote.

While Stewart is vague on which form of PR he would push for, Keith Poore, president of 123 Vancouver, a group that is advocating in favour of proportional representation, said the city should adopt a ranked ballot system

"If we made the change, we would see a reflection of how voters actually voted," said Poore.

This year, London, Ont. became the first municipality in Canada to use a ranked ballot system in its civic election.

How it works

Poore said London's shift to proportional representation ends concerns of vote splitting because voters choose their top candidate, as well as two back-up candidates in case their top choice doesn't get it in.

In that system, a candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in order to win.

In London municipal elections, the first-choice votes get counted first. If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of those first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated from the race. Then, the second-choice votes on the ballots are redistributed to the remaining candidates.

The process of dropping the candidates with the fewest votes and redistributing the remaining votes repeats for subsequent rounds until a winner is elected.

Poore used the example of Kennedy Stewart and his Vancouver mayoral race opponent Shauna Sylvester to show how two candidates can split their voter base.

During the campaign, Stewart and Sylvester were aligned politically on several issues facing Vancouver, such as homelessness and housing affordability.

But because they had similar platforms, and because B.C. municipalities use a winner takes all voting system, left-leaning voters in Vancouver were divided between the two candidates, he said. 

"It would change things entirely," said Poore. "You could put Shauna Sylvester as your first choice, then Kennedy Stewart as your second choice."

With files from The Early Edition

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