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

Some Castlegar business owners have concerns about minimum wage increase

Castlegar business owners generally support the increases to the minimum wage, but have questions.

Interior Health facilities score high in housekeeping audits

Housekeeping audits for health facilities in the region show most are above the auditor’s benchmark.

Castlegar Rebels readying to meet Nitehawks in playoffs

Castlegar Rebels readying to meet Beaver Valley Nitehawks in playoffs

FortisBC explains rate change proposal

FortisBC met with customers in Castlegar to explain their new time-of-use rate proposal.

MP Richard Cannings speaks to Castlegar council

Castlegar council also looks at FireSmart grants and free community movies.

Therapy dogs make appearance at B.C. Games

The St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program launches a pilot project at the 2018 Kamloops B.C. Winter Games

Art and science merge at Kootenay Gallery of Art shows

Scientists are looking to the art world to help communicate the threat of climate change.

Twitter feed prays for — instead of preying on — B.C. MLAs

Non-partisan Christian group wants to support politicians through personalized prayer

Hundreds march for justice in death of Winnipeg teen

Tina Fontaine was pulled from a river in 2014, her body wrapped in a blanket and weighed down by rocks

Maritimes want their own CFL team

Their biggest hurdle is getting a stadium commitment in place

Sask. school shooter to be sentenced as adult

The man was just shy of his 18th birthday when he killed four people and injured seven others

Internet questions PM’s fashion choices in India

The Trudeaus’ eight-day visit has been dogged by various controversies since it began Feb. 17

Adopted potbelly pig killed and eaten on Vancouver Island

Animal had been adopted out from the SPCA in Duncan; staff are devastated by news

Most Read