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‘Yes’ campaign confident on eve of election

Grass roots campaign for electoral reform has one part-time employee



If the Yes Campaign for the Single Transferable Vote is successful, and the majority of B.C. voters in the provincial election on May 17 pass a referendum to adopt proportional representation in the Legislature, it will be a triumph of grass roots campaigning.

With a small budget, one part-time staff member, and a network of less than 200 volunteers, the Yes Campaign has less than two months to convince the people of B.C. to adopt the proportional representation system put forward by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform last December.

The system would radically change the face of politics in the province, redrawing electoral boundaries, allowing more than one candidate from each party to run within each riding, and giving voters the ability to rank their choices in order of preference.

It’s a tall order, but Yes Campaign leaders are confident they can make their case.

"I think awareness is slowly going up, and it’s people… in the media that are helping with that," said Julian West, who has been campaigning for electoral reform and proportional representation since 1996, when the Liberal Party won the popular vote but the NDP won the controlling share of seats.

"I think we’re getting to the point where most people are aware that there’s something going on, even if it means they still have a bunch of questions. What we’ve learned from opinion polls is that when people do learn about the (STV) system and how it works, they do like it, and that we’re already running very strongly with decided voters."

According to an Ipsos-Reid poll in February, only 50 per cent of voters were aware of the referendum, which will ask: "Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform? Yes/No"

Awareness is significantly higher among decided voters. Green Party voters were 81 per cent for the STV system, and 19 per cent against. NDP and Liberal voters are 78 per cent and 62 per cent in favour.

"The problem is with the large undecided vote, and our real task is to try and reduce that by educating more people so they can cast an informed vote. If we do that, we think the Yes side is going to win," said West.

The Citizens Assembly, which was created by the Liberal government and comprised of two representatives from each of the 79 provincial ridings, took thousands of submissions and reviewed dozens of electoral systems in use around the world before all but seven members voted in favour of the STV.

The Yes Campaign is hoping to have volunteers in every provincial riding to speak to the media, speak to interested groups and attend all-candidates meetings with information for the public.