B.C.’s up­com­ing ref­er­en­dum on elec­toral

The Miracle - - Front Page - Source: Globe and Mail

The 2018 pro­vin­cial ref­er­en­dum on elec­toral re­form will be the last word on whether vot­ers want to change how they se­lect their elected of­fi­cials in Bri­tish Columbia, At­tor­ney-Gen­eral David Eby said Mon­day. Mr. Eby will launch pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions later this week to shape the ref­er­en­dum ques­tion, pro­vid­ing both ex­perts and av­er­age Bri­tish Columbians with the op­por­tu­nity to de­sign what the ques­tion or ques­tions will be, and to shape rules on spend­ing lim­its and any pub­lic fund­ing for pro­po­nents. “The goal is to pro­vide Bri­tish Columbians with a very clear op­por­tu­nity to state their pref­er­ence about where they want to go,” Mr. Eby said in an in­ter­view. “I just have a hard time imag­in­ing, com­ing out of a process like that, that there could be any fur­ther dis­cus­sion to be had.” Bri­tish Columbians have al­ready been asked twice in the past 12 years if they want to change the ex­ist­ing first-past­the-post vot­ing sys­tem, and Mr. Eby says, if the mea­sure fails again, “that would set­tle the ques­tion.” The NDP mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment, in its agree­ment with the BC Green cau­cus, has promised a mail-in bal­lot next year that will ask if vot­ers want to change to some form of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion a vot­ing sys­tem where the num­ber of seats each party gets in the leg­is­la­ture is based on their per­cent­age of the pop­u­lar vote. For the Greens, work­ing to­ward pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion is a fun­da­men­tal tenet, and at a re­cent round­table fo­rum with The Globe and Mail, party leader An­drew Weaver said that com­mit­ment won’t dis­ap­pear even if vot­ers re­ject change for a third time. “It de­fines who we are,” he said. How­ever, Mr. Weaver said there will be lit­tle pub­lic ap­petite to keep go­ing back to vot­ers, should this vote fail to yield a change to the vot­ing sys­tem. “I don’t think peo­ple would want you to have a ref­er­en­dum ev­ery four years so it’s not the last one in the fu­ture, but cer­tainly I would say for the fore­see­able fu­ture.” In 2005, B.C. vot­ers were asked if they wanted to re­place the cur­rent first-past-the-post sys­tem with one that would use a sin­gle trans­fer­able vote (STV). That pro­posal won 57.7-per-cent ap­proval from vot­ers, just below the 60-per-cent thresh­old that had been set as the min­i­mum level of re­quired sup­port. In 2009, vot­ers were asked again to ap­prove a shift to the STV sys­tem, but sup­port dropped to just below 40 per cent. The STV sys­tem a form of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion that al­lows vot­ers in each rid­ing to rank can­di­dates by pref­er­ence had been pro­posed by a cit­i­zens’ as­sem­bly that had been ap­pointed to study elec­toral re­form. Mr. Weaver said the vote failed be­cause it was too dif­fi­cult to ex­plain how the new vot­ing sys­tem would work. But now, with both the NDP and Greens cam­paign­ing for change, Mr. Weaver says he is hope­ful that this time around vot­ers will em­brace a new vot­ing sys­tem. The Greens have agreed to sup­port the NDP gov­ern­ment on key mea­sures, in part as a demon­stra­tion to show how a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment sys­tem can work in Bri­tish Columbia. In last spring’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion, the Lib­er­als and NDP each earned slightly more than 40 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote, but the New Democrats even­tu­ally formed a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment with the sup­port of the Greens, who re­ceived al­most 17 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote but took just three of 87 seats. B.C.’s first-past-the-post sys­tem has de­liv­ered re­sults in the leg­is­la­ture that can vary sig­nif­i­cantly from vot­ers’ pref­er­ences. In 1996, the NDP formed a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment even though the Lib­er­als had a greater share of the pop­u­lar vote. (The NDP won more seats, while the Lib­er­als’ votes were spread out.) In 2001, the Lib­er­als cap­tured 77 of 79 seats in the Leg­is­la­ture with just 57 per cent of the to­tal votes cast. Pre­mier John Hor­gan has said he will ac­tively cam­paign in favour of change, ar­gu­ing that the cur­rent sys­tem is un­fair. The ref­er­en­dum, to be held as a mail-in vote in the fall of 2018, may of­fer more than one choice for a new model. If the mea­sure passes with a bare ma­jor­ity of votes, Bri­tish Columbia will use the new vot­ing sys­tem in the next pro­vin­cial elec­tion in 2021. The op­po­si­tion BC Lib­er­als op­pose the pro­posed law that will en­able the ref­er­en­dum. An­drew Wilkin­son, the Lib­eral critic for the at­tor­ney-gen­eral, has said the process “re­ally tears at the fab­ric of our democ­racy.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.