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Canvassers seek support for proportional representation



On May 13, the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia officially launched a 90-day campaign to challenge the B.C. government to change the current electoral system in favour of proportional representation.

The campaign stems from the May 2001 provincial election where the Liberal Party candidates won 77 of 79 seats in the Legislature with 58 per cent of the popular vote. By comparison, the NDP won two seats with 22 per cent of the vote and the Green Party was shut out completely with a party record of 12.5 per cent.

In the previous election, the NDP itself was the beneficiary of the system, winning 52 seats with just 39.5 per cent of the vote.

"If the mixed proportional representation initiative is successful, we will no longer have parties becoming government with less than 50 per cent of the vote or parties capturing almost all the seats in our Legislature with only 58 per cent of the vote," said Green Party leader Adriane Carr after party members voted unanimously in favour of the independent campaign, which is called Free Your Vote.

Carr, acting as a private citizen, plans to use the Recall and Initiative Act to force the government to hold a referendum on pro-rep. By Aug. 12, they will need to collect signed petitions from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the 79 provincial ridings, or roughly 225,000 signatures.

In recent months, the Carr has registered more than 2,500 canvassers around the province through Elections B.C., which will be administering the petitions.

Whistler currently has four registered canvassers, but local Free Your Vote petition organizer Stephane Perron is confident that he will be able to find more.

"I don’t know how much local support there is, but I’ve had people come up to me in the street who had seen my letter in the paper (May 3, Pique Newsmagazine) and they seem very interested," says Perron.

"I do know the Green Party did really well here, we had 33 per cent of the vote in Whistler, and I like to think that the 33 per cent of Whistler who does not have a voice or representation would support this."

The Green Party pro-rep campaign got a boost recently when a poll found that 75 per cent of British Columbians favour electoral reform for the province. However, the Free Your Vote campaign isn’t counting on winning the battle the first time around.

"I don’t think anybody is really thinking this will go through this time," Perron says. "We more just want to get people thinking about it, and saying ‘Jeez, there’s a lot of different ways we could do this,’ or ‘Hey, look at all the other countries that are already doing it, maybe it’s worth looking at’."

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