B.C. Attorney General David Eby announces options in fall referendum on electoral reform, B.C. legislature, May 30, 2018 (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

B.C. voting referendum challenge back in court

Business group says proportional representation process rushed

A B.C. business group returned to court Tuesday to seek an injunction to delay the mail-in referendum on proportional representation set for this fall.

The structure of the vote, a two-part question offering a choice between the existing system and three new voting systems, has been a target of critics since it was unveiled at the end of May. A lawyer for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association is arguing that the structure makes it illegal.

“We believe that the referendum questions and process are illegal because they don’t present the public with a clear choice between the current electoral system and a defined system of proportional representation, as was the case in the two previous referenda held on this matter in 2005 and 2009,” the ICBA said in a statement.

During a break from court proceedings Tuesday, ICBA president Chris Gardner said in an interview his lawyer had the day to present the case and answer questions from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper. Government lawyers are expected to take Wednesday to argue why an injunction should not be granted, and he expects the judge to make a decision on that within a week.

“What we’re basically saying is that the government has artificially put in this timeline in their rush to get the referendum completed by the fall,” Gardner said. “In 2005 and 2009, the referenda occurred at the same time as a provincial election. That way there was a lot more discussion, a higher turnout. This time, very limited discussions, very limited debate.”

This year’s referendum has been arranged by B.C. Attorney General David Eby, who determined the structure of the ballot and the rules. There no minimum turnout required to have a valid result, a simple majority of votes cast required, and no regional requirement weighting for sparsely populated rural areas.

RELATED: Former NDP premier warns against change

RELATED: Referendum plan sparks legislature battle

Elections B.C. has selected an official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ committee for the vote, to persuade people during the voting period, which starts Oct. 22 and ends on Nov. 30. Each committee has been provided with $500,000 to make their case, and allowed to fundraise an additional $200,000.

Gardner said that budget isn’t enough to send a single mailed brochure to every voter in the province, and despite the official start on July 1, he expects that very few people realize the campaign is going on now. He said the government has “ragged the puck” with delay tactics in the original court challenge, and has restricted information on the options that would give voters a more informed choice.

The first referendum question asks voters if they prefer the current first-past-the-post electoral system, which declares the candidate with the most votes the winner in each constituency, or a proportional representation system. The second question offers a choice of three new systems that are designed to make the share of seats more closely match the share of total votes.

Ballots are to be mailed out in October offering three systems:

• Dual member proportional, where neighbouring pairs of districts in B.C. would be combined into one two-member constituencies, except for the larger rural districts, which would remain unchanged.

• Mixed member proportional, which combines single-member districts with party list candidates, added to give each party the number of seats determined by their share of the province-wide vote in an election.

• Rural-urban proportional representation, with multi-member districts for urban and semi-urban areas, with voters choosing their MLA on a ranked ballot. In rural areas, a mixed-member proportional system using candidate lists chosen by parties would be used.

Voters will not have an official map of the new voting districts when they make their choice. If voters choose to change to a new system, the district boundaries would then be determined by the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

COLUMN: Meet Todd Coyne, our new editor

Todd Coyne takes charge of five Black Press newspapers in the West Kootenay

Denesiuk announced as Liberal nominee for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

Connie Denesiuk ran for the first time in 2015, losing to current MP Cannings

Rossland council candidate runs for office from hospital bed

Scott Forsyth suffered a stroke a few days into the 2018 municipal campaign

Kootenay growers call for ban on hemp production in region

Concern that low-THC hemp could spoil outdoor-grown cannabis crop

Naked man jumping into Toronto shark tank a ‘premeditated’ stunt: official

The man swam in a tank at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

NHL players say Canada’s legalization of marijuana won’t impact them

NHL players say the legalization of marijuana in Canada won’t change how they go about their business.

Most Read