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.

BC legislatureProportional representation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Tom Shypitka, pictured with his campaign team. on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. Trevor Crawley photo
Shypitka wins second term; BC NDP cruise to majority

“Election Days,” rather than “Election Day,” may be the more accurate term… Continue reading

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Most Read