Elections BC has chosen the official “Yes” and “No” sides in the upcoming referendum on changing the way B.C. elects politicians.
Voters are being asked if they wish to keep the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or switch to a form of proportional representation (PR). They’ll also be asked to rank which of three forms of PR they prefer, should B.C. make the switch.
Under PR systems, a political party’s share of the seats in the legislature is closely linked to the percentage of votes they get in the election.
The official group campaigning for the switch to a PR system will be Vote PR BC, a group that has already been campaigning on the street for a month.
The official group campaigning to retain the current system will be the No BC Proportional Representation Society.
The group was founded by former BC NDP strategist Bill Tieleman, former BC Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton and former public servant Bob Plecas and has already begun an active media campaign against the switch.
The two groups were the only ones who applied by the July 6 deadline.
Under the rules laid out by the NDP government, both groups will receive $500,000 in public money to get their message out.
Both groups will also have a $700,000 spending limit during the campaign period, which began July 1.
Elections BC will also be engaging in a public education campaign about the systems, which is slated to begin in earnest in September.
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Supporters of PR say that the current system creates “false majorities,” giving winning parties 100 per cent of the power with less than 50 per cent of the vote.
They also say it “wastes” the votes of people who live in so-called “safe ridings,” and that it under-represents groups whose supporters aren’t concentrated into a single area.
Opponents say that PR systems are likely to create minority governments most of the time, and lead to behind the scenes horse-trading by parties when forming government.
They say party lists used to “top up” the legislature to ensure election results match the popular vote give power to parties over voters, and they raise concerns that extremist groups could get seats under PR.
The referendum will be conducted from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30, by mail-in ballot.