Two questions likely on electoral reform referendum

Attorney General David Eby. Province of B.C. photo
Attorney General David Eby. Province of B.C. photo

British Columbians will likely be asked two questions in this fall’s referendum on electoral reform.

A report on electoral reform, released by Attorney General David Eby today, recommends asking the following two questions:

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

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

The report is a result of 14 weeks of public consultations and contains 18 recommendations.

“British Columbians made their voices and their values heard, and it was important we gave them the opportunity to direct how this referendum should work,” said Eby, in a news release. “This input has provided us a firm footing for the recommendations I am putting forward to cabinet. While the engagement marked a first step in involving the public more meaningfully in our democratic process, ultimately, British Columbians, through the referendum, will determine how we vote in B.C.”

The attorney general’s recommendations to cabinet cover all aspects of the fall 2018 referendum, which will decide whether B.C. keeps its current First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system or moves to a system of proportional representation (PR).

If a majority of responses to the first question vote to adopt a proportional representation voting system, then responses to the second question would determine which system is implemented in British Columbia.

The report’s key recommendations also include that:

  • The referendum campaign period begin July 1, 2018, and end by Nov. 30, 2018.
  • The referendum voting period (by mail-in ballot) run Oct. 22, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2018.
  • The chief electoral officer, who is independent of government, provide neutral and factual information to voters about the referendum, including voting systems on the ballot.
  • The chief electoral officer select one designated group to advocate on behalf of retaining the current FPTP voting system, and one to advocate on behalf of PR, using a selection process similar to the 2009 referendum on electoral reform.
  • If voters decide to adopt a proportional representation system, a second referendum be held following two general elections, where voters would decide to keep the new system or return to FPTP.

The report describes the three proportional representation systems to be included on the ballot, which correspond to the engagement with British Columbians. If a proportional system is adopted, it must include a set of features, including:

  • No significant increase in the size of the legislature.
  • No region of the province having fewer MLAs than it currently has.
  • No political party being eligible to receive a seat if they receive less than 5% of the overall vote in the province or region.

Eby presented the report with recommendations to the public, prior to delivering it to cabinet for deliberation.