Electoral Reform Referendum results say ‘Keep First Past the Post’ system

Dianne St. Jean
Electoral Reform Referendum results say ‘Keep First Past the Post’ system

Results of the 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform have determined that British Columbia will keep the current ‘First Past the Post’ voting system. The race between keeping the current system or adopting a system of proportional representation, however, was a tight one.

At one point polls showed a slight lead of ‘First Past the Post’ of 50.5% over 49.5% for proportional representation, and initially, voter return numbers were quite low.

Because of the low voter turnout, as well as Canada Post strikes in some areas, the original ballot deadline was extended from November 30 to December 7. 

According to Elections BC, in the end, 1,403,358 completed voting packages were returned, representing 42.6% of registered voters.

Voters were asked two questions on the referendum ballot. The first question was which voting system British Columbia should use for provincial elections: the current First Past the Post voting system or a proportional representation voting system.

Results from Elections BC showed that, of the validly cast votes in Question 1, 61.30% supported the current First Past the Post voting system, and 38.70% supported a proportional representation voting system.

The second question asked voters to rank three proportional systems: Dual Member Proportional (DMP), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), and Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP). MMP was the proportional system with the most support after the first round of counting in Question 2. It received 41.24% of the valid first preferences, followed by DMP with 29.45% and RUP with 29.31%.

Per the Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Regulation, a second round of counting was required for Question 2 because no system won a majority of first preferences. RUP had the fewest first preferences, so it was eliminated and its votes were transferred to their second preferences. After the second round of counting, MMP had the most support with 63.05% of the valid votes, followed by DMP with 36.95%.

“We’re disappointed with the results,” said Vote PR BC spokesperson Maria Dobrinskaya. “However, we’re also incredibly proud of all those British Columbians who came together to fight for a more positive politics, and how much impact we collectively had.”

Dobrinskaya went on to say that the Pro Rep system is a new way of voting that works better for everyone, and that those who opposed the choice used “fear tactics and distortions”.

Said Vote PR BC President Antony Hodgson, “Canadians continue to be frustrated with the outcomes of First Past the Post elections, and with governments who don’t accurately reflect the will of the electorate.”

Statements from those representing the current system, ironically, have the same argument, stating that their main concern was that the large populations in southern British Columbia would get to determine the fate of northern and interior regions, many of which are rural populations with special considerations, including those of industry such as forestry. From their perspective, the current government in Victoria already does not accurately reflect the will of the electorate in the north.

But another reason for the outcome appears to be the lack of certainty or clarity in the choices of the three systems within the proportional representation model, which was not enough to gain voter confidence. Some found it complicated and confusing.

The referendum on the voting system was implemented by the BC provincial government.

“This referendum was held because we believe that this decision needed to be up to people, not politicians,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement.

“While many people, myself included, are disappointed in the outcome, we respect people's decision. British Columbians have now spoken and chosen to stick with the current voting system.”