NDP leader John Horgan arrives for TV election debate in Vancouver, April 2017. Urban support shifted in his favour enough to form a minority government with B.C. Green Party support. (Black Press files)

Battle lines drawn over B.C. electoral reform referendum

Premier John Horgan says rural voters will be protected

The B.C. NDP-Green government is pressing ahead with its plan to change the voting system in time for the next provincial election, and is facing bitter opposition from the B.C. Liberals.

MLAs have been debating two major changes, one to replace corporate and union donations with a public subsidy based on previous votes, and another to adopt a still-undefined system of proportional representation.

The system is to be defined by the government and put to a referendum to be held by the fall of 2018. Unlike the past two province-wide votes on the issue, this referendum is to be decided by a simple majority of all participating voters, without requiring support from a majority of constituencies.

Without regional support, the referendum will likely be decided by the southwest corner of the province, where three quarters of the population resides. Metro Vancouver alone is home to more than half of B.C.’s 4.6 million people.

Debate has been harshly divided. Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris is among the opposition members accusing the NDP and Greens of a “backroom deal” to remake the voting and party financing system to favour themselves.

“They say that the choice of an electoral system is one of the most important institutional decisions for any democracy, but here we have this government that is rushing this legislation through without any public consultation,” Morris told the legislature Nov. 2. “Yet they’re consulting on ride sharing. They’re consulting on Site C. They’re consulting on the Massey Tunnel. They’re consulting on the foreign buyers tax. They’re consulting on ICBC.”

Premier John Horgan has promised that rural representation will be protected in a new system, but that too has yet to be defined.

B.C. already has a law that requires regular judicial review of the distribution of MLA seats. In the last two reviews, the former government required that rural and northern seats not be merged or eliminated due to low population. Stikine, home of Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, is a vast northwest region with a population of fewer than 21,000 people, 60 per cent fewer than the average of B.C.’s 87 constituencies. Surrey-Fleetwood has a population of more than 60,000, after new seats were added to Surrey and Richmond for the 2017 election to reflect their growth.

“We have deviations in our seat sizes in terms of population that are completely out of whack with other jurisdictions in Canada,” Horgan told Black Press. “So I’m not surprised that there is concern that we take every step to preserve rural representation. It’s fundamental to British Columbians, and I’m committed to make sure that happens.

“But I’m not going to shy away from the need to change a system that fundamentally gives 100 per cent power to less than 50 per cent of the voters.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The new event will allow kids to take part in Across the Lake Swim

A new free event just for kids will leave their hearts and… Continue reading

UPDATE: Kelowna stabbing victim tight lipped about incident

Police say 35-year-old North Okanagan man stabbed in Mission area Sunday won’t talk to investigators

Pumps run dry across the Central Okanagan

Kelowna, Peachland and West Kelowna all reporting gas shortages

UPDATE: Suspect sought in car theft

Stolen vehicle flees scene in Ashton Creek, found behind Polson Park in Vernon

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

BC Ferries posts strong earnings before rate cuts

Last year highest ever for vehicle traffic, most walk-ons in 20 years

More than 150 tremors hit Vancouver Island in last 24 hours

Seismologists monitor to see if pressure will be added to major fault

Snapchat used to make mass shooting threat in Kamloops

RCMP did not dub the threat a hoax, instead called it “unsubstantiated”

Amphitheatre planned for Kamloops area winery

Monte Creek Ranch Winery can finally proceed with amphitheatre plans

B.C. groups file response to government’s fight against solitary confinement

B.C. Supreme Court judge suspended ruling for one year to give government time to draft legislation

National sports organizations have to report allegations of abuse immediately

Sporting organizations will lose federal funding if abuse goes unreported, says Kirsty Duncan

BC conservation officers release badger from wolf trap

Badger recovering after being caught in trap near Williams Lake

B.C. Christian school mulls covenant, future of law school after court ruling

The university still wants to open a law school, but is looking at its options.

Most Read