Yes, No sides aim for $500,000 in run up to electoral referendum facing court action

B.C. residents will get their chance to vote this fall

A campaign on electoral reform officially started on Canada Day in British Columbia before a fall referendum that has triggered a constitutional challenge from a business association and a union that want the process stopped.

Official groups on each side of the issue will get $500,000 in government funding and are expected to be announced mid-July, with several wooing supporters for months.

Voters who choose to replace the existing first-past-the-post system with proportional representation will be asked to rank three options of that model on a mail-in ballot between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30.

Proponents of proportional representation say it’s a fairer way of electing candidates because the percentage of votes a party gets would equal the number of seats it has in the legislature, but opponents say local representation would be reduced with parties having more control.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Canada West Construction Union and its labour relations director Kenneth Baerg filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court, arguing the B.C. government undertook a “rushed” process for fundamental changes to the democratic system, without sufficient opportunity for debate on the options it chose.

READ MORE: B.C. cabinet approves multiple-choice voting referendum

The New Democrats have proposed three models to replace the current system:

— Mixed member proportional representation, or MMP, in which 60 per cent of members of the legislature would be elected by the most votes and 40 per cent by lists set by political parties.

— Dual-member proportional, involving large ridings represented by two politicians, including one with the most votes.

— And rural-urban proportional, a blend of MMP for rural ridings and the single transferable vote system, which voters have rejected in two previous referendums, for urban ridings.

Peter Gall, a lawyer who represents the petitioners, said all the options are complicated and the second and third ones aren’t used anywhere.

“You don’t even know the full details let alone understanding fully what the three options really are,” he said. “The whole thing adds up to just a lot of confusion on the part of the public.”

Gall said he’s hoping the case can be heard as soon as possible in order to clarify multiple constitutional issues, including $200,000 spending limits by third-party advertisers during the five-month campaign.

“It’s so seriously flawed it can’t go ahead in its present form,” he said of the referendum. ”Even if it could go ahead the spending limits on advertising are too restrictive.”

The Attorney General’s Ministry, a respondent in the court action, said in a statement that it would defend the matter.

READ MORE: Four options for B.C. voting referendum

Maria Dobrinskaya, a spokeswoman for Vote PR BC, which is hoping to be selected as the official proponent of the referendum, said proportional representation would allow for a more democratic system because parties that get a low percentage of votes wouldn’t end up with 100 per cent of the power.

“Proportional representation is simple: 40 per cent of the votes should equal 40 per cent of the power,” she said.

British Columbia voters are ready for change after two failed attempts at proportional representation during referendums in 2005 and 2009, Dobrinskaya said.

“I think the issue is before us again because people are frustrated with many aspects of our current voting system, whether it’s plugging your nose and voting for the least-worst option, strategic voting, or if you live in a safe seat … the outcome of some ridings are determined largely before people hit the ballot box,” she said.

“If you look at who the No side is, they’re all people who have enjoyed access and influence in government. The system works for them.”

Dobrinskaya said spending limits are important aspects of the referendum because corporations and unions won’t try to influence the outcome.

Bill Tieleman, spokesman for the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society, which is vying for official opposition group for the referendum, said local representation would be drastically reduced under proportional representation, “even under the most optimistic circumstances, under mixed member proportional.”

“Proportional representation is complicated, it’s confusing, it creates perpetual minority governments and it creates instability,” he said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Donation saves Ladysmith Logger Sports pole climbing competition

The death-defying and stomach-turning skills of the world’s best lumberjacks will go… Continue reading

Open water swimming from Victoria to Washington State

The swim will take at least 24 hours, meaning Susan Simmons will be swimming in the black of night

Ladysmith athletes set to represent Central-Island at BC Summer Games

Town budgets up to $60K for facility improvements

Inside the music

Big Read: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Ladysmith councillor resigns due to personal reasons

Councillor Carol Henderson is resigning her seat at the Ladysmith city council… Continue reading

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters defy eviction order

Demonstrators at Camp Cloud in Burnaby say they won’t leave, but will meet with city officials

B.C. tent city camper arrested for taking coins from fountain

The man, who built a shelter at a Saanich park, says homeless people are unfairly targeted

Ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan says goodbye to Toronto on Instagram

The guard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Okanagan wildfires have potential to become firestorms, says UBC expert

David Andison said to let smaller fires go, to create pockets in the landscape for new forests

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

Organizers of West Coast sport fishing ban troll for attention

Hook-less anglers hitting Sooke area waters July 29 to protest DFO’s summer fin-fish ban

From hot dog to not dog: stuffed toy prompts car break in

Victoria couple said dog toy had been in the backseat for 18 years without problems

Most Read