B.C. Attorney General David Eby announces options in fall referendum on electoral reform, B.C. legislature, May 30, 2018 (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Four options to be offered for B.C. voting referendum

Opposition blasts ‘alphabet soup’ of proportional referendum choices

B.C. voters will be given three new voting systems to choose from in the mail-in referendum on proportional representation this fall.

Attorney General David Eby has decided the ballot will contain two questions, the first being a choice between the current “first past the post” system for choosing MLAs, and a proportional representation system.

The second question is a choice of three systems, determined after review of more than 90,000 submissions. They are:

• Dual member proportional, where neighbouring pairs of districts in B.C. would be combined into one two-member constituencies, except for the larger rural districts, which would remain unchanged.

• Mixed member proportional, which combines single-member districts with party list candidates, added to give each party the number of seats determined by their share of the province-wide vote in an election.

• Rural-urban proportional representation, with multi-member districts for urban and semi-urban areas, with voters choosing their MLA on a ranked ballot. In rural areas, a mixed-member proportional system using candidate lists chosen by parties would be used.

The complexity of the options means voters will not have an official map of the new voting districts when they make their choice. Eby said if voters choose to change to a new system, the district boundaries would be determined by the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson called the options an “alphabet soup” of systems, some never heard of before. He said Premier John Horgan broke two promises, including one in last year’s election campaign to offer people a simple yes-or-no choice.

The other was that regional representation would be protected in the referendum, which will now be decided in a simple majority of province-wide results where rural regions of the province are vastly outnumbered by urban centres.

“You’ll notice that they’ve launched this question the day before the legislature is scheduled to rise for the summer,” Wilkinson said. “That is a sleazy and manipulative step that they’ve taken to avoid public debate on this issue.”

Eby said his recommendation to cabinet is that parties that receive less than five per cent of the total popular vote would not get an MLA.

He said organizations in favour of proportional representation and in favour of the current system are “ready to go” and he hopes to have the formal campaign underway as soon as Elections BC can administer it.

Advocacy organizations will have a spending limit of $200,000 each and political parties will be subject to the same restrictions as an election, with no corporate or union donations permitted.

Details of the options are in the government’s release here.

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