Chamber wants province to delay proportional representation referendum

Todd Corrigall
Todd Corrigall

The Prince George Chamber of Commerce is calling on Victoria to tap the brakes on this fall’s proportional representation referendum.

“We have seen and heard clearly through the B.C. Chamber network that the approach taken by the Government of BC through this process has limited the information available to constituents, making an informed decision challenging,” said Todd Corrigall, CEO, Prince George Chamber of Commerce, in a news release. “The announcement by the Attorney General further reinforces the need for greater engagement and education with respect to proportional representation as the proposed questions lack clarity. Further, the government has not provided any indication on how ballots will be counted.”

A report on electoral reform, released by Attorney General David Eby, 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

Corrigal said the chamber is concerned that the province has not provided the public, including the business community, enough clarity and educational resources to make an informed decision in the upcoming referendum.

During the 2018 BC Chamber AGM in Kamloops, prior to last week’s announcement, B.C. chambers, including the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, voted in favour of the following resolution:

Engaging Business and Community on Electoral Reform

This policy resolution carried the following recommendations for the Government of BC:

  • Appoint a non-partisan panel on the likely outcomes of an alternative system prior to issuing a referendum, comparable to the previous Citizens’ Assembly, examining the implications of the proportional representation being considered, particularly, its implications on rural/urban divide, measure to avoid corruption and promote greater loyalty to parties rather than the region the MLA represents;
  • Clearly define the system of proportional representation that is being considered, well in advance of any referendum;
  • Confirm that no changes will be implemented unless there is a clear majority overall and the referendum is supported in each riding; and
  • That the referendum on proportional representation be delayed until such time as a substantial educational campaign has been enacted and all constituents in the Province of BC are adequately knowledgeable as to the impacts of proportional representation system.

The Prince George Chamber of Commerce is calling on Victoria to slow the process down, and implement the suggestions proposed by the BC Chamber.

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, will 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.