While British Columbians as a whole rejected the idea of proportional representation, in the Eastern Fraser Valley the decision to stand by the status quo was even stronger.
Just over 61 per cent of participating voters opted to stay with the first-past-the-post system in the provinces mail-in referendum, Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman reported Dec 20.
But in the electoral of Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent, the results were 74.5 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. Those three-to-one votes to stick with first past the post (FPTP) put the two local areas eighth and ninth out of 87 ridings in the province.
Two Cariboo ridings, two in Abbotsford and Nechako lakes voted in a higher percentage for FPTP. Topping the list was Peace River North at 86.4 per cent followed by Peace River South at 84.9 per cent.
The top six electoral districts choosing proportional representation were in Vancouver and Victoria.
The referendum offered a choice between the traditional first-past-the-post voting system, essentially a separate election for each of B.C.’s 87 provincial seats, and three variations on proportional representation to make the number of seats match more closely with the party’s share of the province-wide vote.
Opposition critics blasted the NDP for giving Attorney General David Eby the task of developing the options, rather than a citizens’ assembly as was the case with referenda in 2005 and 2009 that offered a single transferable ballot system and were defeated.
This referendum also differed from earlier ones by having no minimum turnout and no regional weighting to ensure that urban areas in the southwest didn’t decide the issue.
Premier John Horgan promoted B.C.’s electoral reform options as a way to improve voter participation. In a year-end interview with Black Press, Horgan said the referendum turnout of just over 40 per cent is a valid response to a proposal to change the system for at least the next two provincial elections.
“Democracy is about showing up,” Horgan said. “I’m pleased that we got 41-42 per cent voter turnout for a mid-term mail-in referendum.”
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver wanted the province to legislate a change without a referendum. B.C. Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson has attacked the referendum, saying it was concocted by the NDP government and leaves too many questions unanswered until after the result is known.
“I campaigned to have a referendum,” Horgan said. “My Green colleagues preferred to just implement proportional representation. I wasn’t prepared to do that, and I have every confidence in the wisdom of B.C. voters and will live by the decision that they send us.”