Tribute to Wendy Bergerud

Wendy Bergerud, a member of Fair Vote Canada’s national council, a leader in Fair Vote Canada Victoria and a long time proportional representation activist passed away on March 8, 2016. This tribute was written by the executive of Fair Vote Canada Victoria.

Tribute to Wendy Bergerud

Wendy Bergerud admitted, when she was randomly selected for the B.C. Citizen’s Assembly in January, 2004, that she knew little about electoral systems. Over the nearly ten months that the Citizens’ Assembly studied the issue, she read all the submissions and attended as many of the meetings as possible. By the time the Assembly submitted its report on October 25th, 2004, recommending adoption of B.C. STV, a single-transferable vote system, she was one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated members of the Assembly.

           The B.C. government held a referendum on May 17th, 2005, asking British Columbians whether they would accept the Assembly’s recommendation to adopt B.C. STV or preferred to remain with the First Past the Post system. Support for B.C. STV would have won if the government had not raised the threshold to 60%. Indeed, voters favoured B.C. STV to the tune overall of 57.7% with a majority in favour of reform in 77 of 79 electoral districts (a simple majority in 60% of electoral districts was a second threshold).

           Because the vote in favour was so high, the government agreed to hold a second referendum during the provincial election on May 12th, 2009, using the same thresholds. By now, forces opposing reform had had time to organize, and this time the overall vote was only 39% in favour. Wendy actively worked for the yes side of the referendum, but only 2 of 85 electoral districts surpassed the 60% threshold, one of them in Victoria, Wendy’s home town, a result due in large part to her efforts.

           With the defeat of the second referendum, there was little to be done but wait for another opportunity to raise the issue again. In the meantime, Wendy became a Board Member of Fair Vote Canada, and remained so until 2015. In 2009 she also organized a Victoria Chapter of Fair Vote Canada to keep discussion of the issue alive. In most months of the year from 2009 until her health failed in 2015, she was present at Chapter “pub nights” where she contributed her considerable knowledge to lively discussions of electoral reform.

           Wendy continued to maintain an interest in the local chapter of Fair Vote Canada through her illness until her death in March, 2016. Her greatest desire for the Chapter was that it continue to be as active as it had been under her presidency. To this end, the Executive members met, re-grouped, and were able to re-assure her that the Victoria Chapter of Fair Vote Canada will continue as she wished. Her knowledge, wisdom, and jolly sense of fun at Chapter meetings will, however, be missing.

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