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British Columbians again reject STV

VANCOUVER – Shouting over the noise of a late-night powerwasher on Georgia Street, NO STV advocate Bill Tieleman held an impromptu, election night press conference to announce the demise of the latest plan for BC electoral reform.

“STV is dead, that much is clear,” he said, flanked by fellow NO STV operative Rick Dignard. “The change that was proposed was just plain wrong. You might even say, we cleaned up.”

It was 10:30 p.m., and with over half a million votes already counted, the NO forces in favour of keeping the existing electoral system had earned over 60 per cent of the popular vote. It was enough for No STV to announce that BC voters had rejected STV for the second consecutive time.

In the May 2005 election, just over 57 per cent of voters endorsed STV, falling just short of remaking the political system in BC.

Not far away at a Main Street bar, attendees to a party hosted by British Columbians for BC-STV – the official promoter of the STV system for the referendum – were putting a brave face on the results.

“It’s like women getting the vote or the battle for civil rights,” said Shoni Field, the spokesperson for BC-STV. “Electoral reform is not going away, but it’s clearly not going to happen first in BC, either.”

The first shock to the room came just after 9:30, when CBC News predicted that the pro-STV side, based on very early returns, would fail.

“I’m surprised,” said, Arjun Singh, an executive member of BC STV, staring into a giant TV screen. “This time around, people couldn’t get their heads around some of the nuances of STV. But we’ll keep working ..we have [established] such a huge grass roots group all across the province.”

Others were less philosophical.

“The other side lied a lot, and there was a lot of misinformation,” said Antony Hodgson, a director of Fair Voting BC, citing cases where the no side “cherry-picked” negative facts from STV analysis and research.

Tieleman attributed their success to the fact that this year – as opposed to in 2005 – the voting public got a lot more information, such as what the new and enlarged ridings would look like under STV.

“There were allegations that this was a back-room, political operative campaign, but what we were able to do was to give people a much closer look at STV, this time around.”

Christopher Pollon is a regular contributor to The Tyee.

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