BC Awaits Proportional Representation Results

Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of Selkirk College Students’ Union, along with thousands of young voters, returns her referendum ballot at a local Service BC Location

| Chantelle Spicer |

With the deadline to submit all mail-in ballots on the proportional representation referendum having come and gone, British Columbians now wait to see how our democracy will proceed. As of December 7, Elections BC had received an estimated 1,356,000 returned ballots, or roughly 41% of registered voters with the highest returns coming from Vancouver Island. 

The No BC Proportional Representation Society faced criticism in its  campaign for inciting fear of neo-nazi and fringe party politics emerging in BC due to proportional representation, which led to an ad being temporarily pulled and edited.

Following the deadline, Bill Tieleman, Vote No spokesman, along with Andrew Wilkinson and many of the BC Liberals, have stated that returns under 50% of eligible voters should mean that the referendum be deemed illegitimate. 

Torrence Costa, campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, believes a lower return on the referendum is indicative of disenfranchisement with the current first-past-the-post system. 

Many municipal elections throughout the province receive far less than 40% voter turnout and remain binding and supported by their communities.

Ann Remnant of Fair Vote – Kootenays chapter states the protestations of Wilkinson and Tenneman regarding returns “have everything to do with trying to undermine the process and nothing to do with the actual turnout. Judging by their NO campaign, they will say anything to discredit the process, the turnout, the results.” 

For students like Kim Pham, Secretary of the Selkirk College Students’ Union, this as “a great opportunity for students to have their voice heard at the decision-making table. It means a more democratic and fairer government, especially for students which are usually considered or consider themselves a minority group.”

In her work advocating for proportional representation on campus, she observed that many students she interacted with assumed their votes mean nothing. She states “many students get excited knowing that with this new voting system, their vote would actually get counted. This referendum brings hope to many people, especially students.”

During the campaigning period, many rallies and town halls from both sides of the campaign took place throughout the Kootenay region to educate voters on the referendum and what it could mean for rural areas.

Remnant states proportional representation could mean the Kootenays would “be part of a regional group that can work together on issues which affect all of us. I see this as a positive, we are linked by roads, waterways, industry, tourism, and more.”

Once the results are finalized, Elections BC states they will be released to the Speaker of the B.C. Legislature and to the public via the Elections BC website, social media channels, and a news release. Elections BC spokeswoman Rebecca Penz said final turnout numbers will continue to be reported into early next week, with the hopes of releasing the results by Christmas.