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.

Just Posted

Abbotsford hopes to restrict new marijuana grow applications

After provincial rule change this spring, city left looking to craft its own rules

Abbotsford to boost transit faster than first planned

City to get 12 new buses, expand service by 40 per cent, by end of 2022

No student left behind by prohibitive fees, Abbotsford officials say

Approved 2019/20 fees include non-mandatory cost of school supplies

VIDEO: Protection for Abbotsford burial site urged by First Nations, developer

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

Mt. Baker climb next month honours Const. John Davidson

Abbotsford Police chief and Davidson’s three grown children among participants

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read