Public consultations have begun in anticipation of an electoral reform referendum coming in the fall of 2018. The BC NDP government has introduced legislation to conduct the referendum, and has recently rolled out a public consultation questionnaire to shape the key elements of the questions. This fulfills a campaign promise by the NDP, who opposed the first-past-the-post system throughout the campaign. The leading question in the referendum will be whether the province should enact a change from the current first-past-the-post system to a system of proportional representation.
The public engagement questionnaire gives voters an opportunity to comment on several features of the electoral system, including their preferred voting system, electoral values, and preferences for the referendum ballot. It also allows voters to select more than one variant of a proportional representation system. The variants include list proportional representation, mixed member proportional, single transferable vote, and mixed member majoritarian. The Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act calls for changes to the electoral system to be enacted if more than 50% of voters support the change.
The Attorney General’s office has advocated for the public engagement process as a measure for independence and fairness. BC Attorney General David Eby said the process is designed to be “fair, neutral and as independent as possible.” However, the referendum has met some early criticism from the Opposition. The Opposition Liberals are touting the referendum as undemocratic. They claim that the referendum is an attempt to make a back-room deal with the Green Party, who are currently supporting the NDP minority with 3 seats. The Green Party have favoured a proportional representation system in previous campaigns.
According to the Vancouver Sun, The MLA representative for B.C.’s Kootenay region said that proportional representation will “put more power in urban ridings at the expense of the rural voters he represents”. He opposes the change, suggesting that our current system is proven and stable. The Opposition’s Attorney General critic said the public engagement questionnaire is “massively biased” in favour of proportional representation. He also favours the current electoral system, suggesting that it has been effective at achieving “peace, order and good government…for 150 years”.
The referendum questionnaire will be available from November 24, 2017 until February 28, 2018. The questionnaire can be accessed here.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.