Premier John Horgan has voted in favour of the “mixed member” option in the province-wide referendum on proportional representation, and he acknowledges it is not yet known how that would work in B.C.
Of the three options on the ballot, Horgan said he chose the one that is the “most widely used internationally.” As critics of the referendum have pointed out, the other two have never been used anywhere.
A key point of contention is the possibility of “list” candidates being appointed by parties to top up their seats to match their share of the province-wide vote. Lists may be “open,” so voters can choose their favourites, or “closed” so parties can select the winners after the vote.
“We’ve already made it clear we are not reducing the number of members,” Horgan told reporters after he mailed in his ballot last week. “In fact we may have to increase them to ensure that generally we will have more proportional representation. But I don’t support closed lists. I support citizens voting for people and electing them to our legislature.”
Whether that happens is up to an all-party committee to be appointed this month, before the referendum result is known. The NDP and B.C. Greens will have a majority to work out the details if proportional representation is chosen. It would have until next March to figure out how many constituencies there would be, and how many MLAs each would have.
Attorney General David Eby’s recommendations, a 106-page binder released May 30 and adopted word for word by the NDP cabinet, describes the mixed-member option this way:
“As recommended in this report, it meets the principle of local/regional representation by requiring at least 60 per cent of total seats to be from single-member electoral districts (albeit larger ones than currently), and by requiring that the list PR seats are allocated on a regional basis rather than a province-wide basis.”
The two untried options, rural-urban PR and dual-member proportional, aim to preserve local representation in the large, thinly populated rural regions of B.C.
Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson are preparing to debate these options Thursday evening at 7 p.m., in a half-hour broadcast on Global and CBC television. Voting is underway, with a deadline of Nov. 30 for mail-in ballots to be received by Elections B.C.