CBC Premier John Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson debate in Vancouver Wednesday.

Value of leaders’ proportional representation debate questioned in Kelowna

Both sides feel debate between B.C. premier and Liberal leader added little to the discussion

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick and former Kelowna-West Green Party candidate Rob Mellalieu disagree on the issue of proportional representation, but they agree that voters got little out of a televised leaders’ debate on the issue Thursday night.

In the 30-minute debate, Premier John Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson squared off over the issue of replacing the current first past the post voting system with a form of proportional representation.

But the debate turned into more sound and fury than information for voters, with both men repeatedly talking over each other and not answering questions posed to them about their respective positions.

RELATED: John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson square off on B.C. voting referendum

“I’m disappointed,” said Mellalieu, who like Horgan, supports moving to a form of proportional representation to elect B.C. MLAs.

“(The debate) could have been so much more. Instead it was the fight for the sound bite.”

Letnick, who like Wilkinson supports keeping the first past the post system, agreed the debate added little to the public discourse.

“I don’t know how much the public got out of that,” he said after watching the debate.

He pointed to Wilkinson’s repeated questions to Horgan about how many MLAs there would be under proportional representation and how big provincial ridings would be and Horgan’s refusal to answer.

He said he supports Wilkinson’s call for a citizen’s assembly to be created to figure out the best way to elect MLAs going forward, rather that the government-imposed referendum that is now underway.

He said he feels the public, not politicians should determine what sort of change is needed, if any.

RELATED: The case against switching to PR

RELATED: The case for switching to PR

Mellalieu said he was surprised Horgan would not answer the question about how many MLAs there would be given that the government has already said there would be no more than 95 under proportional representation.

But he said his belief that it’s time to change to proportional representation has not changed because it would make every vote count and would better reflect the wishes of voters.

Three forms of proportional representation are included in the referendum and all, call for multiple MLAs in larger ridings with at least one MLA voted in using the first past the post system and the others appointed in order to reflect the percentage of the total provincial vote a political party receives in the election.

Opponents of proportional representation say the power of the voter to select their political representative would be transferred to political parties under any one of the three proposed new systems, while proponents say it would make every vote count, would be more reflective of what the entire voting public’s wishes and would be more fair.

Voters have until Nov. 30 to return their referendum ballots by mail. So far, only 2.5 per cent of ballots have been returned.

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