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Will electoral reform survive if STV fails?

Some proponents of BC-STV say it will be the end of hopes for electoral reform if British Columbians vote against the system in Tuesday’s referendum.

“If we don’t pass it this time it will be a hundred years before we get change,” former premier Bill Vander Zalm said on CBC Radio earlier this week.

If recent polls are a good indication, the pro-STV camp faces an uphill batte.

But not everyone agrees that a loss at the ballot box would mark the death of electoral reform for B.C.

“Certainly I don’t think it’s the end of the road,” said Cara Camcastle, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University. “Support for electoral reforms will continue to exist.”

The conditions in the current system that prompted the referendum will still be there, Camcastle said, adding she expects continued support for electoral change from both politicians and the public.

“There are advocacy groups that will want to keep the torch burning.”

The Green Party of B.C. is also likely to continue to make electoral reform one of its key issues, Camcastle said.

The Greens are the only major party to take a position on the referendum and are encouraging British Columbians to vote in favour of STV.

Both the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals have said they won’t take sides because they don’t want to influence voters.

The Liberals are also not saying what will happen to options for electoral reform if STV is rejected.

“We are just waiting for the people to decide,” said Liberal Party spokesperson Shane Mills. “We’re not going to prejudge what they will do on May 12.”

But NDP leader Carole James said she is committed to electoral reform even if the required 60 per cent threshold for adopting STV is not achieved.

“If STV doesn’t pass but there’s strong support for electoral reform, we’ll put another model on the table as a referendum in the next election,” James told reporters this week.

The NDP has not yet decided how a new model would be determined, she said.

“I think we’d have to have discussions to take a look at what would be the best way to do that,” James said. “Through a legislative committee, through a public process, through a citizen’s assembly, I think there are a number of ways you can look at it.”

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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