Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok attacks the NDP-Green plan for a referendum to change B.C.’s voting system, Nov. 23, 2017. (Hansard TV)

B.C. NDP referendum plan sparks legislature battle

David Eby says public will decide on proportional referendum

As B.C. Attorney General David Eby launched a public consultation on changing B.C.’s voting system, opposition MLAs were ramping up their attack on what they call a “backroom deal” to take away rural representation and favour the B.C. Green Party.

The consultation is to decide on the question to be put to a province-wide referendum next fall on changing the electoral system. B.C. Liberal MLAs have focused on the NDP government’s decision to make the vote a simple majority, which they say would erode rural representation and have the decision made by Lower Mainland voters.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver initially wanted to impose proportional representation without a referendum, but then agreed to a mail-in vote as part of his deal to support the NDP minority government. That trade-off included the NDP agreeing to offer more than one alternative to the winner-take-all voting system that B.C. has used for most of its history.

In the legislature Thursday, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok led off debate with a blistering attack on the plan, accusing Premier John Horgan of breaking his promise to give voters a simple choice between two voting systems.

Clovechok joined other critics in listing the effects of proportional representation in other countries, with unstable governments such as the just-collapsed coalition in Germany and the rise of far-right parties in Europe. They argue that B.C.’s current minority government would become the norm under proportional representation.

“Again, the small Green tail continues to wag the bloated orange dog,” Clovechok said. “Voters who choose first-past-the-post as their first choice will have to choose between multiple proportional representation systems for their second and third choices. If their first-past-the-post doesn’t win on the first ballot, then victory is unlikely.”

Eby said he will not take part in government’s decision on how to shape the referendum, but he noted that the B.C. government could go ahead and change the system without a referendum.

“There’s no obligation on government to do this,” Eby said. “In fact there’s no legal obligation on government to hold a vote at all. The Constitution Act can be amended without this process.”

Until midnight Feb. 28, 2018, British Columbians can visit the consultation website engage.gov.bc.ca/HowWeVote to give feedback on the referendum question. Eby said as options for the vote are developed, they will be added to the website.

B.C. Liberal critic Andrew Wilkinson said the website survey is “massively biased in favour of proportional representation.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureElectoral reform

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Month-long water quality advisory still in effect for Rupert residents

The City of Prince Rupert recommends those with weakened immune systems boil water prior to use

Jennifer Rice North Coast MLA seeks re-election

Northwest politicians announce intent on elections

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Heart of the City – Jason Scherr

Try and Try again - Prince Rupert Seamen Rugby Club

No COVID-19 public exposures in the North Health Region at this time

Northern Health Authority issued a statement on Sept. 17

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Most Read