COLUMNS: The fine print of proportional representation

It may come as a surprise to many that we are now in the third month of the official campaign

It may come as a surprise to many that we are now in the third month of the official campaign leading up to the fall referendum on proportional representation.

If you are one of those who does indeed feel a bit blindsided by a blatant attempt to tip election rules in favour of the NDP and Green Party, I can assure you that you are not alone.

In an unusual and rather suspect process, Premier John Horgan ordered Attorney General David Eby to devise a plan to change the way we elect a government in this province.

READ MORE: Liberals hosting barbecue to discuss proportional representation

Rather than pose a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, Eby’s referendum reads very much like a done deal. Voters will be asked if our current system is inadequate and should we instead adopt anyone of the following three models of proportional representation: dual member proportional, mixed member proportional or rural urban proportional?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the difference between these three highly complicated formulas. That’s because the government is going to take the results of the referendum and design a new system on their own anyway.

How is this possible? Eby has not set a minimum threshold for voter participation. So even if less than ten per cent of eligible voters in B.C. choose to mail in their ballot on November 30th, that’s okay by government standards. The NDP and the Green Party want to avoid the embarrassment the premier of Prince Edward Island experienced in 2016 when their referendum passed, but too few people took part to make it legitimate. But all this may not matter because Eby isn’t mentioning the very fine print. If the Green Party fails to vote in support the NDP minority government any time before the next general election set for 2021, the referendum becomes null and void.

READ MORE: Proportional representation means more B.C. parties, coalitions

In other words, the Green Party is being led by a carrot on a stick. I wonder if voters will approve of this state of affairs come November?

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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