Referendum on B.C. voting system next year

By on October 5, 2017
The B.C. legislature would change dramatically if proportional representation is approved. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press/Pool).
B.C. government moves on proportional representation

B.C.’s NDP government presented legislation Wednesday to keep its promise to the B.C. Green Party and begin a shift to proportional representation if a majority of voters approve.

Attorney General David Eby said the government will promote debate on the complex topic in the months ahead, followed by a mail-in vote on a new system of voting intended to more accurately reflect the wishes of all voters.

In another nod to the B.C. Green Party, legislation was also introduced to reduce the number of seats required for official party status from four seats to two. Along with proportional voting, the system would enable a shift to a multi-party legislature, referred to in Europe as a “pizza parliament.”

The legislation also prepares the B.C. government for an earthquake involving the fragile legislature or another disaster in which some cabinet ministers are killed or incapacitated.

“In a sense, yes, this is our Designated Survivor legislation,” Eby said, in reference to a current TV show about the U.S. government after a disaster.

It also moves the scheduled election date from spring to fall, effective fall of 2021.

The referendum will be successful if 50 per cent plus one of voters approve it. The legislation requires mail-in voting to be complete by Nov. 30, 2018.

The question has not yet been determined, but it is expected that if there are multiple choices for voters, they will rank their first, second and subsequent choices.

With a minority government that could be defeated before the fall of 2021, any election held before July 1, 2021 would be held under the existing voting system.

The legislation sets the scheduled election date of the third Saturday in October 2021, and on that date every four years.

The legislation doesn’t prescribe what the question will be. The NDP campaigned on a simple yes or no question, but Eby said Wednesday the proposed legislation leaves multiple options open so parties, experts and the public have their say before the question is formulated..

Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau said she is encouraged by Premier John Horgan’s commitment to reforming the electoral system.

“We are currently awaiting more details about the engagement process and look forward to being an active participant,” Furstenau said.

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