British Columbia

Plan for B.C. electoral reform referendum misses mark, opposition says

The opposition Liberals are harshly critical of a lack of details on the impact of proposed systems in the recommendations for the referendum on proportional representation.

B.C.'s attorney general is proposing a 2-question ballot for fall vote

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson accused the NDP government of playing games with the electoral system. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The opposition Liberals are harshly critical of a lack of details on the proposed proportional representation systems in the recommendations for B.C.'s electoral reform referendum.

A report by Attorney General David Eby recommends two questions for the ballot — one to determine if B.C. should switch to proportional representation and the other to rank three possible proportional representation systems.

If more than 50 per cent vote in favour of change, the highest ranked system in the second question would be adopted.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson was critical of both the proposed referendum questions and the timing of the NDP's announcement.

"They are proposing an alphabet soup of where they are proposing a bunch of systems that no one has ever heard of," he said. "It's an attempt to confuse and manipulate British Columbians away from the democracy we so value."

The Liberals plan to vigorously oppose the proposal, but with just one day left in the spring legislative session, that will be a challenge, Wilkinson added.

"It's a sleezy and manipulative step they have taken to avoid public debate on this issue," he said.

Green support

Both the Greens and the NDP campaigned on support for changing the voting system in B.C.

Green MLA Sonia Furstenau said she was pleased with the plan Eby presented on Wednesday.

"This launches us into what is a very important conversation for British Columbians," she said

Furstenau also disagreed that the timing of the report was an issue, saying the debate over whether or not to change the electoral system will happen in B.C. communities over the summer.

"We have six months between now and the referendum. This provides an enormous opportunity to be able to engage on these questions in the public where it should be engaged."

Key details missing

But the Liberals also question how voters can make an informed decision this fall without any maps on what ridings would look like under the various systems of proportional representation.

"They are playing games with voters to keep the Green Party happy," Wilkinson said.

Attorney General David Eby said there is not enough time before the fall referendum to provide that level of detail.

Instead, new electoral districts would be determined by an independent boundaries commission, should voters choose proportional representation.

Other concerns raised by the Liberals include the lack of a minimum threshold for voter participation which could see a small number of British Columbians potentially change the voting system.

The Liberals are calling on the Premier John Horgan to reject the report from the attorney general, which will now go to cabinet for approval.

But Horgan ruled that out during a volatile question period on Wednesday.

"The government received a report today from the attorney general. We will review that report and there will be a question put to the people this fall."

About the Author

Megan Thomas

Reporter

Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.

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