‘Hip’ Horgan short on pro-rep specifics
VICTORIA — A much-anticipated debate between B.C. Premier John Horgan and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson devolved into an extended 30-minute televised argument Thursday evening that political experts say offered voters little useful information.
“I’m glad it was only half an hour,” said University of Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford. “It was not terribly informative in terms of getting more details on any kind of electoral system.
“There was just a lot of yelling over the top at each other, which I think people will find irritating and frustrating.”
Horgan and Wilkinson’s debate focused mainly on questions about the three electoral systems versus the potential for a new voting system to engage disenfranchised British Columbians.
“We’re talking about changing to something that’s more inclusive and representative, or sticking with a system that will produce majority governments with a minority of votes,” Horgan said.
Wilkinson focused much of his time on quizzing Horgan about specific details about the three proposed PR systems. He demanded Horgan tell the public how many MLAs would be elected under each model, as well as how many ridings would be merged and how many votes British Columbians would have on their ballots.
Horgan struggled to explain specific details, because many of the finer points remain undecided until after the referendum is complete and an all-party committee of MLAs — as well as an electoral boundary commission — decides upon the ridings and formats.
“Premier Horgan is advocating a change to three different systems, two of which have never been used anywhere in the world,” said Wilkinson.
“You don’t believe we can be innovative?” asked Horgan.
“This is not a card game where you can write the rules,” replied Wilkinson.
“People want to know before they fill in that ballot how many MLAs will I have, how many votes will I have … tell us how it’s going to work. You are making the suggestion to change the system, you have to explain to people. And I haven’t heard you explain one single feature tonight.”
The mail-in referendum asks voters whether they want to keep the first-pastthe-post electoral system, or change to one of three options of proportional representation.
Ballots must be returned by Nov. 30. As of Thursday, Elections B.C. reported 2.6 per cent of almost 3.3 million registered voters had returned ballots.
Wilkinson argued that the current system has been used for decades safely and is simple to understand.
Horgan rejected that argument, saying the province should use this “unique opportunity” to try something new and be comforted that a second referendum will be held two elections later if the selection is unpopular.
“I don’t think we need to keep using the telegraph, let’s get modern, let’s get hip,” said Horgan.
Premier John Horgan speaks to Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson in a sometimes loud televised debate on electoral reform Thursday night.