Wednesday, June 6, 2018

While Legislature takes its summer break, British Columbia voters have some homework ahead

The province's elected representatives bade their farewells to the Legislature last Thursday, heading off to their summer of constituency duties and summer vacation plans, while those with official government duties prepare to keep tabs on issues of note within their sphere of influence.

However, while the Legislature and MLA's go into summer  hiatus mode, the NDP government of John Horgan left some homework for British Columbians to keep up to speed on.

With the government introducing their plans for a referendum to determine whether residents wish to pursue a proportional representation model, or, as they have in two previous calls for a vote, decide that the current first past the post process is just fine.

The latest attempt to gauge the opinion of the voters was launched on May 30th,  with the official referendum campaign to begin on July 1st and end by November 30th.

Voting will be conducted by mail in ballot, with the voting period to run from October 22nd to November 30th.

The question and launch of the referendum process comes following four months of consultation with the public.

Provincial government seeks feedback on what upcoming electoral reform referendum should look like

Some background on the NDP government's roll out of the electoral reform project can be found here.

The question for the voters could be a two stage approach, depending on where they fall on the issue of proportional voting.

The First Question will be:

1. Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vote for only one.): 

 The current First Past the Post voting system 

A proportional representation voting system 

The second question offers up the options if voters are inclined to give the proportional representation plan a shot:

2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer? (Vote for the voting systems you wish to support by ranking them in order of preference. You may choose to support one, two or all three of the systems.): 

 Dual Member Proportional (DMP) 

 Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) 

 Rural-Urban PR

It's the second portion of the dual question approach that is making for a fair bit of controversy, with little really known about the shape of the three options or how they would impact existing ridings and representation.

The BC Liberals have taken up the call of those opposing the NDP's plans, highlighting a range of concerns over the NDP process and among those who made frequent statements in the House this spring on the topic has been Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.

The Skeena MLA has brought the electoral theme up a number of times both in the Legislature and in his constrituency since the fall.

With letter to the editor; Skeena's Ross points towards concerns on Green Party/NDP alliance
Electoral reform debate marks time in final week for Fall session of Legislature
Skeena MLA tackles electoral reform proposals during Legislature discussion

With the Liberals set to make the electoral reform project a significant issue for the summer and fall months, those of us in the Northwest will most likely be hearing more from Mr. Ross on the topic.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice hasn't spent quite as much time addressing the prospect of the referendum or change to the electoral system, with but one statement in the Legislature on the topic.

Legislature hears support for Proportional Representation plan from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

As the Legislature  has now been suspended until the NDP calls the House back to work, a timeline still undefined by the government, there won't be a public forum in place for discussion of the Proportional Representation issue on a daily basis.

That has provided some opponents with the opportunity to suggest that the governments plan is more of a public relations plan, rather than one which will provide for serious debate and discussion.

The somewhat convoluted approach to the roll out of information towards the vote is getting a fair bit of attention from the province's media, which has delivered a number of articles to help voters digest the ramifications of the government's plans.

Many of British Columbia's most influential columnists and a few from across Canada have weighed in with thoughts on the topic, some of their review can be found below:

June 5 -- I want proportional representation - but not this way
June 4 -- New Zealand gives BC a lesson on proportional representation
June 4 -- Squabbling in the Yes Camp as referendum fight begins
June 4 -- Why not a simple question B.C.?
June 3 -- B.C. Liberals declare all-out war on proportional representation
June 2 -- Know your voting systems: three types of electoral reform on B.C.'s ballot
June 1 -- Long odds facing electoral reform advocates in B.C.
June 1 -- Why is the Electoral Reform Vote making my Head hurt?

May 31 -- Eby's complicated referendum might be too much for voters to unpack, experts say
May 31 -- What you need to know now just as complicated as the stuff after vote
May 31 -- Expert warns B.C. embarking on democracy 'experiment'
May 31 -- BC Liberals call PR referendum a 'rigged game', call for more information on proposed systems
May 30 -- B.C. unveils its proposed question for voters in electoral-reform referendum
May 30 -- Plan for B.C. electoral reform representation misses mark, opposition says
May 30 -- B.C. to choose between 4 systems for electoral reform referendum
May 30 -- Eby to keep electoral reform vote 'simple', as in simply confusing
May 30 -- B.C. government releases details on electoral reform referendum
May 30 -- The battle begins for proportional representation
May 30 -- Four options to be offered for B.C. voting referendum
May 30 -- British Columbians will vote on our electoral system - Here are the 4 options
May 30 -- More fair? Or less accountable? The cases for and against proportional representation in B.C.
May 30 -- B.C.'s Attorney General recommending 2 ballot questions for electoral reform referendum
May 30 -- Eby Unveils Proposed Electoral Reform Referendum Questions
May 30 -- B.C. electoral reform referendum includes two-part ballot question
May 29 -- B.C. to learn details of electoral reform referendum Wednesday
May 29 -- Battle lines drawn as B.C. prepares to take next step on electoral reform vote

And former Prime Minister Jean Chretien has even found a way into the debate, that from his  observations over the weekend on how he sees the calls for Proportional representation at the Federal level.

The former PM delivered another one of his colourful  Chretienesque quotes, one  that the opponents of the concept provincially might find helpful as they look to take the debate to the NDP government and the people through the summer and into the fall.

“For all the professors who want to sit in Parliament but who can’t even get themselves elected dogcatcher, sure, it’s a good system ... Going to the street corner, shaking hands and asking for a vote. That’s democracy.”

The process of engagement with the public has already been launched, with Robo calls surging out of the phone centres on Friday to share word of the province's plans and the call for the vote to be hosted by Elections BC.

As the discussion moves towards referendum day, you can keep up to speed on the themes of the debate from our  referendum archive page hosted on our political blog D'arcy McGee.

For more items of note related to the work of the MLA's of the Northwest and the Provincial government see our archive here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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