Premier John Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson debate proportional representation, Nov. 8, 2018. (Youtube)

John Horgan shrugs off low turnout, change to referendum option

‘No’ proportional representation group says voting should be extended

Premier John Horgan says he’s not altering the rules of his government’s referendum halfway through, because the change he is making to proportional representation is one all three B.C. political parties agree on.

Horgan said last week he is personally opposed to “closed lists” chosen by parties to select MLAs to fill out their province-wide share of the vote, after an election under proportional representation. This week, with voting half over, he added that he will instruct NDP MLAs to support open lists, which allow voters to choose MLAs directly by whatever system emerges.

Closed lists are opposed by all three parties in the B.C. legislature, Horgan said.

“So I don’t believe I’ve amended anything other than to put forward what is self-evident,” he said. “Closed lists aren’t in the interests of British Columbians.”

Horgan also shrugged off concerns about the low response to more than three million mail-in ballots, which had reached only 7.4 per cent by Thursday with less than two weeks remaining for them to be received at Elections B.C. He said there was some impact from rotating strikes by Canada Post employees, and avoided the question of how high the turnout needs to be to be legitimate.

“Certainly I want to see as much participation as possible,” Horgan said. “We’ve had mail-in referenda in the past that have seen in the neighbourhood of 40 to 50 per cent response.”

The No B.C. Proportional Representation Society, the official ‘no’ group funded by the government, cited postal lags and low turnout in its call Thursday to extend the deadline and declare a minimum turnout. Elections B.C. has the option of moving the deadline past Nov. 30 if the postal dispute affects the result, and the NDP cabinet retains control over what happens after the result is in.

“Surely a turnout of at least 50 per cent plus one of the eligible voters actually casting ballots must also be accepted before such significant change can be introduced,” said Bill Tieleman, president of the No society.

RELATED: Horgan, Wilkinson square off in TV debate

RELATED: Pro rep means more B.C. parties, coalitions

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the low turnout is a signal from the public.

“British Columbians have not been persuaded by John Horgan’s little game to change our voting system, and they’re showing that by not returning their ballots,” Wilkinson said. “Horgan needs to understand that British Columbians are smart enough to know they’re being taken to the cleaners.”

Wilkinson said ruling out “closed lists” after 200,000 people have voted is just one of the indications that the NDP and B.C. Green Party will control the committee that decides how the referendum result will be implemented.

“John Horgan is pretending to do us all a favour by revealing one of his 23 cards, when he actually controls the whole game,” Wilkinson said. “If he would be more candid in what he’s doing, people would have more trust in this process, and the wise people of British Columbia would be able to make an informed decision.”

During their televised debate Nov. 8, Wilkinson repeatedly pressed Horgan to give details such as the total number of MLAs, the number for each multi-member constituency and how extra MLAs would be selected and distributed.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureProportional representation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Woman comes home to ‘entirely different’ Victoria after cruise ship, military base quarantine

Melanie Sibbitt booked herself a last-minute vacation on a cruise ship hit by COVID-19

Victoria brewery uses 3D-printer to make face shields for health care workers

Phillips Brewing is teaming up with engineers to create single-use medical equipment

Wheelchair user asks people to leave space on sidewalks to socially distance

Wendy Cox says many people are not stepping off the sidewalk to allow her space

COVID-19: Victoria moves homeless into 35 hotel rooms across the city

Mayor pleads with residents to stay inside during pandemic

Victoria street nurse thanks public for outpouring of donations

Businesses and individuals donated gloves, masks, sanitizers and more to frontline workers

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Most Read