The questions to be asked in the upcoming proportional representation referendum in B.C. —Capital News file

Kelowna chamber to host proportional representation debate

Proponent and opponent of changing the provincial election system will argue their sides Oct. 17

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce will host a debate about the advantages and disadvantages of proportional representation Wednesday .

The event, to be held during a luncheon at the Coast Capri Hotel and will feature Bill Tieleman, a proponent of the “no” side in the upcoming provincial referendum on switching to proportional representation to elect MLAs, and Marina Dobrinskaya, a supporter of the “yes” side.

According to the chamber, Tieleman and Dobrinskaya both represent groups that have received $500,000 each from the B.C. government to help educate the public about the pros and cons of proportional representation leading up to the mail-in referendum.

RELATED: To change, or not to change, that is the proportional representation referendum question

Dobrinskaya is the B.C. director of the Broadbent Institute, an independent national organization that champions change through the promotion of democracy, equality, and sustainability, and the training of a new generation of leaders. She is active in the civic Vision Vancouver party. She has 15 years of political experience, having worked in government, running a governing political party and working in numerous campaigns at the local, provincial and federal levels. She is also a regular media commentator on both municipal and provincial politics.

Tieleman is a well-known B.C. political strategist and campaigner, having played leading roles in past B.C. referendums, including the ones that defeated proposed changes to a B.C single transferable vote electoral system to elect MLAs in 2005 and 2009, and then as strategist for fight to dump the Harmonized Sales Tax in 2011. Tieleman was previously communications director to then-B.C. NDP premier Glen Clark 1996 and to the B.C. Federation of Labour under then-president Ken Georgetti.

The Kelowna chamber luncheon is scheduled for noon on Oct. 17.

RELATED: B.C.’s proportional representation referendum: The case for switching to PR

The chamber says B.C.’s electoral system has a direct correlation to how the provincial legislature operates, the approval of major investment projects and the management of our economy, so it’s important the public understand both side of the referendum argument.

“It’s extremely important that British Columbians and business owners and operators understand proportional representation and why you need to vote in the upcoming referendum,” says the chamber.

The referendum will feature a mail-in ballot. The province will start mailing out ballots to all British Columbians starting Oct. 22. and voters must return them by Nov. 30.

The referendum will consist of two questions, the first asking voters if they want to see a change from the current, “first-past-the-post” system of electing MLAs in each provincial riding. If so, a second question will give voters the choice of three forms of proportional representation—dual-member proportional, mixed-member proportional and rural-urban proportional—and voters will be asked to rank them.

RELATED: B.C.’s proportional representation referendum: The case against switching to PR

Dual-member proportional would produce two representatives in each riding. The first seat would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes—similar to first-past-the-post. The second seat would be awarded to one of the remaining candidates so proportionality is achieved across the entire province using a calculation to award parties their seats in ridings where they had their strongest performances.

Mixed-member proportional would see voters get two votes—one to decide the MLA for the single-seat riding, and one for a political party. Seats in the B.C. Legislature would then be filled first by the elected candidates from the ridings and then by the party candidates based on the percentage of votes each party received in the overall provincial election.

Rural–urban proportional is a hybrid system that would use mixed-member proportional representation in rural areas and a single transferable vote in urban and semi-urban areas.

If the province moves to proportional representation, a second referendum will be held following the second provincial vote using the new system to see if British Columbians want to continue using it.

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