Province says official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ side in referendum to be chosen ‘very soon’

British Columbians will vote in the referendum by mail-in ballot beginning Oct. 22. Global News

With just months to go until British Columbians vote on whether to change the way they elect politicians, Elections BC is hasn’t selected the official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns.

Beginning Oct. 22, B.C. will vote by mail-in ballot in a referendum on switching to proportional representation (PR), but regulations for the electoral agency to choose the proponents still haven’t been drafted.

READ MORE: Confusion growing around official B.C.’s proportional representation campaign

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Education Minister Rob Fleming, who speaks for the government on the issue, said the rules should be ready in short order.

“It may happen this week, it may happen later than that. It will happen very soon,” he said.

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“We do appreciate there are tight timelines here. And that’s because we do want to give British Columbians a full five-month campaign period. That’s a very long time, I realize.”

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The official campaign period, in which spending limits apply, kicks off July 1.

READ MORE: BC Liberals call PR referendum a ‘rigged game’, call for more information on proposed systems

Under the road map laid out for the referendum by Attorney General David Eby, the chief electoral officer is to select one designated group to advocate on behalf of the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and one to advocate for PR.

Eby’s recommendations called for each side to get $500,000 in provincial funding, and for a $200,000 spending cap on additional private donations.

While the official campaign period hasn’t kicked off, at least one opponent is already digging in.

A wrap-ad taken out by business man Jim Sheppard opposing the proportional representation referendum. Postmedia

Business man Jim Shepard, who took out a newspaper wrap-ad attacking Attorney General David Eby on Wednesday, said the move was fair game and to expect more.

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“He was the one put in charge to do this. He is attorney general. He is the senior most person on the legal side of this government,” he said.

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“I am opposing the referendum, the way it’s set up. I want it re-written.”

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Until financial limits kick in, Shepard said he and a group of donors will run as many of the ads as they can.

Shepard, who campaigned against the NDP in the 2017 election and worked as an adviser to former-premier Christy Clark, won’t say who his donors are or how much they’ve raised.

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The referendum will be conducted by mail-in ballot from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30.

Voters will be asked a two-part question: whether they wish to switch from the current FPTP system to a system of PR, and if so, which of three systems they would prefer.

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