Unopened referendum voting packages collecting in a “return to sender” basket in a B.C. apartment building lobby. (Twitter)

Unopened referendum voting packages collecting in a “return to sender” basket in a B.C. apartment building lobby. (Twitter)

Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility

Of the few who have voted, poll finds most rejected proportional representation

Premier John Horgan is promoting B.C.’s electoral reform options as a way to improve voter participation, but a lack of returned ballots raises doubts about the credibility of the result.

More than two weeks into the mail-in voting period, and a day after Horgan’s televised debate with B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson over the three types of proportional representation being offered, only 3.7 per cent of ballots had been returned to Elections B.C.

Courtenay-Comox and Boundary-Similkameen voters had the highest response at 11 per cent by Friday, but Delta North, Maple Ridge-Mission and others had returned only a handful of ballots. A grand total of 14 Surrey-White Rock ballots were received, out of more than 42,000 mailed out to that constituency starting in late October.

Out of 3.3 million voting packages mailed out province-wide, just over 120,000 had been returned by Friday.

READ MORE: Horgan, Wilkinson square off in TV debate

WATCH VIDEO: Deadline for voting only two weeks away

In the debate, Horgan said proportional representation will appeal to those “tuned out and turned off” by the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system that gives big majorities to one party or another in many regions of B.C.

“We have seen voter turnout go down election after election after election,” Horgan said. “The best way to invigorate our system is to encourage people to participate and you do that by giving them options, giving them choices.”

In fact, turnout in the latest provincial election was up, from 57 per cent of registered voters in the 2013 election to 61 per cent in the 2017 election that resulted in an NDP minority government. And according to Elections B.C. statistics, the largest increase in participation was among voters under age 45.

The lowest turnout in B.C. general elections was in 2009, where just over 50 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, re-electing the Gordon Campbell government and rejecting for a second time a proposed “single transferable vote” method of proportional representation.

In last week’s debate, Wilkinson called the current three choices “a dog’s breakfast” that few people understand, and referred to unopened ballot packages landing in recycling bins or returned to the sender.

According to the latest public opinion poll, those who did mail in their ballots right away have been more likely to decline the choices offered by the NDP government. Insights West surveyed more than 800 B.C. residents, finding a virtual tie between FPTP and some form of proportional representation, 41 per cent to 42.

But among respondents who had already voted, 58 per cent said they chose to stick with the existing system.

Horgan pointed to recent provincial election results as demonstrating the unfairness of FPTP.

“In Quebec, 37 per cent of the vote made 100 per cent of the power,” Horgan said. “In Ontario, 40 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power.”

Wilkinson used most of his time in the brief TV debate to press Horgan to explain how the options would work, particularly in larger, multi-member constituencies that would result.

“You’re asking us to change to something where we don’t know where the boundaries will be,” Wilkinson told Horgan. “We don’t know how many votes we get, we don’t know how many MLAs we’re going to have, and particularly we don’t know how these votes are going to be redistributed around the province.”

Completed ballots must be received by Elections B.C. by 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, meaning they should be in the mail by Monday, Nov. 26.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureProportional representation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paramedics Andrew Mills, left, and Rick Harwood are up from Victoria to help out local ambulance crews. (Photo courtesy BC Emergency Health Services)
Extra paramedics sent to Terrace

Area is experiencing high number of COVID cases

Security has been stepped up at both Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, pictured here, and at Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat. (File photo)
Stillbirth reaction leads to more hospital security

Staff, physicians facing threats and harassment

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Hazelton school COVID-19 closure extended one week

With spring break on horizon, Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary will be closed to end of March

There were 31 new COVID-19 cases in the Terrace local health area during the week of Feb. 21 to Feb. 27, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control)
Northwest B.C. remains a COVID-19 hot spot

There were 31 new cases reported in the Terrace local health area between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president and Grand Chief Stweart Phillip speaking at a rally with chiefs from around B.C. outside of the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in 2019. The UBCIC said in an open letter to Terrace city council that it was “heartbroken” to hear about the situation. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs ‘heartbroken’ by McCallum-Miller resignation

Terrace’s first Indigenous councillor resigned Feb. 22, alleging systemic racism

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read