B.C. par­ties open to elec­toral re­form

NDP, Lib­er­als in­di­cate they’re open to talks with the Greens who cam­paigned on change

The Province - - NEWS - GEORDON OMAND

Nei­ther of B.C.’s two main po­lit­i­cal par­ties is rul­ing out chang­ing the prov­ince’s elec­toral sys­tem with­out hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum.

The New Democrats’ cam­paign plat­form in­cluded putting the ques­tion of elec­toral re­form to vot­ers, but party leader John Horgan said Thurs­day he’s open to com­pro­mis­ing with the Greens, who want the change in­tro­duced with­out a vote.

“Quite hon­estly I be­lieve that this singular mo­ment in his­tory is an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate to Bri­tish Columbians the ben­e­fits of a pro­por­tional sys­tem where two par­ties can come to­gether and pro­vide good gov­ern­ment for B.C.,” Horgan said af­ter his first cau­cus meet­ing since the May 9 elec­tion.

“We cam­paigned on a ref­er­en­dum to af­firm pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but I’m open to dis­cus­sions with the Green party about their ap­proach to this ques­tion and we’ll take it from there.”

Lib­eral Leader Christy Clark said ear­lier this week that she wants to dis­cuss the is­sue with the other par­ties be­fore tak­ing a firm stand, but added that she cam­paigned for elec­toral re­form dur­ing her time as a ra­dio talk show host in Van­cou­ver.

“In the past I have been an ad­vo­cate for elec­toral re­form,” she said on Tues­day.

“Let’s have the dis­cus­sion with the leg­is­la­ture and other par­ties first.”

The NDP and the Lib­er­als are await­ing the fi­nal re­sults of last week’s tight elec­tion race and the lead­ers of both par­ties have said they are in talks with the Green party over form­ing a pos­si­ble mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

No sin­gle party se­cured a ma­jor­ity of seats in the elec­tion, leav­ing the Lib­er­als with 43, the NDP 41 and the Greens three, al­though those re­sults won’t be con­firmed un­til af­ter next week’s ab­sen­tee bal­lots are counted.

The Greens cam­paigned on a prom­ise to in­tro­duce a sys­tem of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Party leader An­drew Weaver said the ex­act form of elec­toral change would be a mat­ter of ne­go­ti­a­tion.

“Our po­si­tion had been that we would bring in pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion with­out a ref­er­en­dum ... but we would be open to dis­cussing a ref­er­en­dum after­wards,” Weaver said on Wed­nes­day.

The Greens also want to lower the vot­ing age from 18 to 16 and change the fixed date of the pro­vin­cial elec­tion to Oc­to­ber.

B.C. has voted on chang­ing the prov­ince’s elec­toral sys­tem twice in the last 12 years, but both at­tempts failed.

In 2005, about 57 per cent of peo­ple voted in favour of a sys­tem of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, which fell short of the 60-per-cent thresh­old es­tab­lished by then-premier Gor­don Camp­bell.

Four years later, vot­ers were asked to vote on elec­toral re­form but the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment ac­tively cam­paigned against the pro­posal.

The ini­tia­tive re­ceived only 39-per-cent sup­port.

JA­SON PAYNE/PNG

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan is sur­rounded by in­cum­bent and newly-elected NDP MLA’s dur­ing a cau­cus meet in Van­cou­ver on Thurs­day. Elec­toral re­form is be­com­ing a hot topic be­tween the par­ties.

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