Attorney General David Eby and Premier John Horgan have revealed the choices available in the referendum on proportional representation set for this fall. (B.C. government)

Leaving B.C.’s electoral reform to a referendum is ‘ridiculous’: professor

B.C. voters getting ballots in the mail on proposal to change electoral system

British Columbians will soon start receiving mailed ballots for a chance to vote in a referendum that could change the provincial voting system, but the experience of other provinces suggests the plan will be a waste of time and money, says a political science professor.

Nelson Wiseman of the University of Toronto said Ontario and Prince Edward Island have failed to replace the existing first-past-the-post system, as has B.C. in two previous attempts, because the status quo favours established parties in the long run.

Wiseman said elected leaders should decide themselves if they want to change a system and not leave that up to voters, who could oust a party in the next election if they’re dissatisfied with the results.

“My attitude is, ‘Look, don’t tell me you’re going to have a referendum. Tell me if you are in favour. Are you going to do it or are you not going to do it?’ “

Proponents of proportional representation say it’s a fairer way of electing candidates because the percentage of votes would roughly equal the number of seats a party gets in the legislature. Opponents say local representation would be reduced with parties having more control.

Vote PR BC and the No BC Proportional Representation Society are the two official proponent and opponent groups in the referendum, and each has received $500,000 in government funding.

British Columbians are receiving voter guides in the mail, and ballot packages will be sent over the next two weeks. The voting period will start Monday, and all ballots must be received by Elections BC by Nov. 30.

The ballot will contain two questions: whether the first-past-the-post system should be kept or changed to a system of proportional representation. The second question involves ranking three proportional systems, which are:

— Mixed-member proportional, or MMP, would result in 60 per cent of members of the legislature being elected by the most votes and 40 per cent by lists set by political parties.

— Dual-member proportional would involve large ridings represented by two politicians, including one with the most votes.

— Rural-urban proportional would be a blend of the MMP for rural ridings and the single transferable vote system for urban ridings, though voters have already rejected it in 2005 and 2009 referendums.

Attorney General David Eby has said that if a proportional representation system is voted in, a second referendum would be held following two general elections to allow for a return to the current system.

Wiseman called that “ridiculous.”

“My overall view about this is that you ought not to have referenda on these things. That’s what elections are for,” he said, adding British Columbia has proposed too many proportional models that are confusing.

However, Prince Edward Island voters will be asked whether they want to ditch the first-past-the-post system in another referendum that’s expected next year.

Wiseman said that’s not surprising because it allows political parties to suggest that people have power, even if they’re voting for systems that may ultimately be unsuccessful.

In B.C., Premier John Horgan, whose New Democrats formed a minority government last year after reaching an agreement with the Green party, is campaigning in favour of proportional representation.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver, who also favours a change, said the first-past-the-post model doesn’t allow parties to work together and make compromises.

“If you believe that politics is about power as opposed to good governance then obviously you want ultimate power and you want to have it solely in the hands of a handful of people,” he said.

“There’s no doubt we would get more seats out of proportional representation.”

The BC Liberal party is campaigning against proportional representation.

Andrew Watson, spokesman for Elections BC, said “plain-language experts” were hired in an effort to provide clear information about the referendum options on its website and in mailed-out material.

He said Elections BC also sought advice from an expert in electoral systems from New Zealand, which adopted a form of proportional representation in the 1990s.

Elections BC will start posting information on its site about the number of packages it has received starting Nov. 2, with the results of the referendum to be announced at an undetermined date, Watson said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Road rescue near Sayward points to volunteer need

Fire department recruits can be tough for small, remote communities

Quadra hikers found after two days in the wild

Two women did not return from what was supposed to be an hour-long walk Wednesday

Hunter who saved man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in North Island woods

Man arrested in Campbell River following alleged getaway attempt

Suspect faces charges including dangerous driving; drug investigation ongoing

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read