September 13, 2018 1:57 pm
Updated: September 13, 2018 6:03 pm

Postal strike could cause delays for proportional representation referendum

The HST referendum deadline was extended in 2011 because of a Canada Post strike.

The HST referendum deadline was extended in 2011 because of a Canada Post strike.

Global News

Elections BC is preparing for the possibility that the proportional representation (PR) referendum could be delayed due to a postal strike. Last week, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action.

CUPW said nearly 94 per cent of urban letter and parcel carriers approved a possible strike while almost 96 per cent of rural and suburban carriers signalled their willingness to walk off the job.

READ MORE: Canada Post workers vote in favour of strike action

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“We are monitoring this situation closely. The Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act and its regulation requires that the referendum be conducted by mail between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30,” said Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson in an email. “If a postal strike impacts the administration of the referendum, we will communicate any changes to the public as soon as they are confirmed.”

Elections BC says if there is a strike during the election period, one possible solution would be to extend the deadline to get ballots mailed in.

READ MORE: B.C. lays out rules for fall referendum on changing the way politicians are elected

Voters are being asked if they wish to keep the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or switch to a form of 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 it gets in the election.

READ MORE: Here’s why Canada Post workers are threatening to go on strike

In 2011, there was a postal strike during the mail-based HST Referendum, and the office of the Chief Electoral Officer exercised its authority under the HST Referendum Regulation to extend the deadlines for requesting a voting package and for returning a voting package to Elections BC.

“It is possible that similar measures could be taken if there is a postal strike during this referendum,” Watson said.

But No BC Proportional Representation Society president Bill Tieleman said a strike could have a big impact on vote turnout, even if the deadline was extended.

READ MORE: Official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ side chosen B.C. vote on changing how politicians are elected

“It would definitely be a concern because we already have a situation where most people haven’t even heard about this referendum and anything that makes it more difficult for voters to participate … is going to cause even further lower turnout,” said Tieleman.

Tieleman said all the issues are “manageable” but that anything that would impact the ballots being sent out would be “unfortunate.”

WATCH HERE: Electoral reform referendum question subject of fiery legislature exchange

“Some people will just say, ‘I’ll put it aside until the strike is over,’ and then never remember to pick it up again,” Tieleman said. “If it is a possibility, we would recommend people to vote right away and get it in the mail so it can be received by Elections BC.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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