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

Four Tofino businesses up for Vancouver Island Excellence Awards

Tofino’s business community is shining with four Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards… Continue reading

Second fatal crash occurs in Alberni Valley

Traffic on Highway 4 is being re-routed as investigators are en route

Fireworks ignite ire in Ucluelet

“What does it take to actually have your bylaws enforced?”

Ucluelet RCMP urge residents to report suspicious activity to police, not just Facebook

“I definitely would advise people to lock their doors.”

Tofino and Ucluelet’s best sports stories of 2018

The West Coast’s athletes filled 2018 with flair, personal achievements and competitive success.

Giant rotating ice disk forms in Maine river

Ice disk that is roughly 100 yards wide has formed in the Presumpscot River

Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash

Feds poised to bolster RCMP accountability with external committee

Long-anticipated move is the latest attempt at rebuilding the force following years of sagging morale

Canada needs a digital ID system, bankers association says

The Department of Finance last week officially launched its public consultation on the merits of open banking

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Most Read