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BC New Democrats pledge electoral reform vote if elected

Last Updated Apr 14, 2017 at 2:51 pm PDT

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Deep within the NDP platform is a promise to hold a vote on electoral reform, to give people a chance to choose a proportional system.

One political scientist feels this issue won’t swing the election next month but could potentially have long-term implications.

The fact this promise makes up just five sentences within the 118-page platform tells you all you need to know about the party’s feeling about this issue as a vote winner, says UBC political scientist David Moscrop.

“It’s probably an indication that most people don’t really care about electoral reform, at least not enough to vote on it,” says Moscrop. “The vast majority of people consider this as a sort of incidental promise or side issue. The election is really about the economy and affordability for the most part. The [BC] Liberals want to keep the status quo, they want to cut taxes. The NDP wants to change things quite considerably and make sure the province is more affordable for folks.

“Electoral reform doesn’t, not in a very clear or simple way, fit into that, so they’re not going to spend too much time on that because it doesn’t get them all that much, especially since most folks who support reform, I venture, are already going to support the NDP.”

The fact the NDP has indicated a referendum would only require a simple majority in order for a change to a proportional system, also increases the chances we could actually see that shift.

“Two times ago when we had the 60 percent threshold, it was largely arbitrary,” says Moscrop. “It was an indication that the government wasn’t very serious about adopting reform. A 50 percent plus one is an indication that they are serious about potentially adopting reform if that’s what folks want. Keep in mind 57.7 percent of people chose the single transferable vote [during the 2005 BC referendum], so it almost got to 60. You can imagine this time around it also getting close again.”

Voters on this specific issue will likely be wary however — the federal Liberals promised a similar change to how we vote during the 2015 election only to pull a U-turn after riding the existing system to power.

“If the NDP really cares about electoral reform, it’s very easy, they just do it,” says Moscrop. “If they win and start to have second thoughts because they won under the current system, then they’re going to be in a tricky position where they have to either walk their promise back or hold a referendum and potentially give up on a system that has benefited them — although in most cases it doesn’t benefit them.”