B.C. premier, Green leader sup­port elec­toral re­form at ref­er­en­dum rally

Asian Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

Vic­to­ria: Those for and against chang­ing Bri­tish Columbia’s pro­vin­cial vot­ing sys­tem to a form pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion will soon have a say as res­i­dents be­gin re­ceiv­ing ref­er­en­dum bal­lots in their mail boxes.

The de­bate started to heat up Tues­day in the leg­is­la­ture, with the Op­po­si­tion Lib­er­als call­ing the vote a “sham,” but it was all cheers at an evening rally in sup­port of the change side.

About 1,000 peo­ple at­tended a cam­paign-style event that fea­tured speeches in favour of elec­toral re­form by Green Leader An­drew Weaver and New Demo­crat Premier John Hor­gan. “I firmly be­lieve peo­ple want co-op­er­a­tion, not con­flict,” said Hor­gan. “We will not make progress as a so­ci­ety if we con­tinue to bat­tle our­selves over out­dated ideas.’’

The premier told the crowd he is a late con­vert to pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but hav­ing his ideas con­stantly dis­missed be­cause he was not part of gov­ern­ment con­vinced him to sup­port elec­toral re­form. He said he voted against elec­toral re­form in B.C.’S first ref­er­en­dum in 2005, but voted in favour in 2009 and made the cur­rent ref­er­en­dum a cam­paign prom­ise in 2017.

B.C.’S two pre­vi­ous elec­toral re­form votes failed.

“Pro Rep means ex­actly what it says,” said Hor­gan. “If you get 40 per cent of the votes, you get 40 per cent of the seats.” Op­po­si­tion Lib­eral Leader An­drew Wilkin­son and Hor­gan spent much of Tues­day in the leg­is­la­ture chal­leng­ing each other on the is­sue.

Wilkin­son said Hor­gan is afraid to de­bate the topic, but Hor­gan said he’s wait­ing for the event to be or­ga­nized. “This is what we get from a premier who hasn’t got the guts to face the cam­eras be­cause he’s a cow­ard about this ma­nip­u­la­tive ref­er­en­dum,’’ he said. “This democ­racy has worked since 1871. Do not let these peo­ple op­po­site play games with your fran­chise and over­rule your fun­da­men­tal rights. It’s a com­plete sham.”

The ref­er­en­dum asks B.C. res­i­dents if they want to change the elec­toral sys­tem to a form of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion or keep the cur­rent first-pastthe-post method. A ma­jor­ity of 50 per cent plus one is needed to change the sys­tem.

Elec­tions BC said it mailed 3.3 mil­lion ref­er­en­dum bal­lots to reg­is­tered B.C. vot­ers this week. The dead­line to re­turn the bal­lots is Nov. 30, and a vote re­sult is ex­pected sev­eral weeks later.

Pack­ages are also be­ing sent in­ter­na­tion­ally to reg­is­tered vot­ers who are tem­po­rar­ily away from their homes in B.C.

Weaver, whose Green party also sup­ports elec­toral re­form, told the rally the ref­er­en­dum of­fers vot­ers a unique op­por­tu­nity to change they way they elect their gov­ern­ments.

“We now are at a piv­otal mo­ment,” he said. “We have the op­por­tu­nity to change the sys­tem to make it more in­clu­sive, to en­sure ev­ery vote counts and to fi­nally have a sys­tem that lets peo­ple vote for what they want with­out fear of get­ting what they don’t want.”

The Greens, which have three mem­bers in the leg­is­la­ture, reached an agree­ment after the elec­tion last year to sup­port a mi­nor­ity NDP gov­ern­ment. Part of that deal in­cluded hold­ing an elec­toral ref­er­en­dum this year.

Mukhbir Singh

An­drew Wilkin­son

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