Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick is accusing B.C.’s NDP government of “gerrymandering” the province’s political system with the options it has presented for how MLAs could be elected in future.
Letnick supports keeping the current “first-past-the-post system” where the candidate with the most votes in a given riding is elected, said he feels it provides the best and most accountable representation for voters.
He said what the current government will be asking for from voters in the Nov. 30 referendum will be a “blank cheque.”
“(The government) promised a simple, clear question—yes or no. But they have backtracked on that,” said Letnick.
“They are doing everything they can to gerrymander the process.”
On Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby unveiled the options and rules for the upcoming electoral reform referendum. Two of the options have never been used before and the third was rejected twice by B.C. voters, in 2005 and 2009.
The three proposed alternatives include:
•Dual Member Proportional Representation which would create large two-MLA ridings with one of the MLAs elected based receiving the most votes and the other based on his or her party’s provincial performance.
• Mixed Member Proportional Representation where 60 per cent of MLAs would be elected and 40 per cent appointed by political parties.
• Rural-Urban Proportional Representation, a mixture of Mixed Member Proportional Representation for rural riding and a Single Transferable Vote system for urban riding. The Single Transferable Vote was rejected in both previous referendums held in B.C. on the issue of electoral reform.
Letnick blasted the current government for not only presenting a confusing proposal to the public, but also for “rigging the system” by making the threshold for approval in the referendum just 50 per cent plus one.
He said that will give the heavily-populated urban areas in the Lower Mainland an advantage in the vote over rural areas of the province.
While supporters of proportional representation hailed the government’s plans, Letnick said he feared it would lead to minority governments in future in B.C. And that would mean they would be beholden to other parties whose support they would need to stay in power. That, he feels, will result in unstable government.
Proponents of proportional representation have said moving away from the first-past-the-post system would mean governments would not longer be elected without receiving a majority of the votes.
Because the current system allows more than two parties to field candidates—as well as letting independent candidates run—it is possible for the winning candidate in any riding to be elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote.
Currently, the NDP is in power with 41 seats in the B.C. Legislature, thanks to the support of the B.C. Green Party with its three seats. The Opposition B.C. Liberals have 42 seats.
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