BC Referendum Update

The BC government has released their legislation on holding a referendum on proportional representation. It raised as many questions as it answered, but since then they’ve released a backgrounder that nails down a lot of key details, such as:

– it will be a mail-in ballot (not done in conjunction with the 2018 municipal election, as previously suggested)

– it’s still only a “may” as to whether it’ll be a two-part question, but the language used in the backgrounder suggests it’s more likely “yes” than “no”

– if there are multiple options on a question, they have finally expressly confirmed that it might (and the language suggests it probably would) let people rank the options in the order they prefer them

This is exciting news. A mail-in ballot is a better option, as it allows the ballot to be accompanied by educational materials that explain the system (or systems) on the ballot. A mail-in ballot also gives people more time to consider than they would in a ballot-box environment, and that’s a winner too.

I’m excited by the growing prospect of there being two questions on the ballot too, if it’s for the reason I think. That sounds like it might start with a question that asks if you support the principle of proportional representation (yes/no), and then ask voters which form of PR they prefer. I think this is a much more democratic way of structuring the ballot. If you asked people to choose between multiple systems and first-past-the-post (FPTP) is one of the options, if the majority favour PR then those who support FPTP get no say in what form of PR the province moves to. If the first question is the slugfest between PR and FPTP, that means that every voter gets a say in what form of PR they get (including FPTP supporters, who might be against change but who nonetheless deserve to have a say in what change we get if PR succeeds).

So it’s still not a sure thing that we’re getting a two-part ballot, or a ranked ballot, but these are definitely options on the table that are being strongly considered and I’m glad for it.


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