Electoral reform debate fizzles in Mission after NDP MLA uninvited from event

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will still talk electoral reform in Mission, but there will be no debate.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will still talk electoral reform in Mission, but there will be no debate. Richard Zussman/Global News

The Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce has backed out of a planned proportional representation debate that was scheduled for Thursday.

The event was heavily criticized by the B.C. NDP after MLA Ravi Kahlon claimed he was uninvited by the chamber. B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson was scheduled to take part.

“After a failed attempt to have both sides represented in the conversation at our October 11 Proportional Representation Discussion, The Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce will be withdrawing support of this event,” wrote chamber president Andrea Walker on the organization’s website.

“The Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce has always been a nonpartisan organization, working across the political spectrum for the benefit of our members and community.

READ MORE: B.C. Government to legislate a second referendum on electoral reform if new system passes

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“It is essential that The Chamber of Commerce display an absolute degree of non-partisanship, supporting this event raises an unacceptable perception that we may be otherwise. We apologize sincerely for any inconvenience or miss-communications around this event.”

The chamber had arranged the event in order to provide community members information about the upcoming proportional representation referendum.

Following the cancellation announcement Wilkinson took to his twitter account and blamed the NDP for ruining the event.

READ MORE: British Columbians split on proportional representation, one third undecided: poll

“Let’s be clear — the NDP were originally invited to this event, declined, and then changed their minds once it was too late. Due to the actions of the NDP, the Chamber cancelled their part of the #PropRep event,” wrote Wilkinson. “We feel this public discussion is critical so we will be holding our own event in tomorrow.”

The story from the NDP is different. Kahlon says that he had volunteered to represent the party after MLA Bob D’Eith was unable to attend. Kahlon says that offer was accepted but after putting the debate with Wilkinson in his calendar, he was told he was uninvited.

“It’s obvious that Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals have no real desire to debate proportional representation,” said Kahlon.

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“The BC Liberals and their rich friends have tried to stop British Columbians from even having a referendum. And now he has proven that he doesn’t want British Columbians to hear both sides of this important question.”

READ MORE: Premier John Horgan willing to debate Liberal leader on electoral reform but details unknown

Registered voters will get a voting package in the mail from Elections BC between October 22 and November 2, 2018.

Wilkinson has challenged B.C. premier John Horgan to a debate on electoral reform. Horgan has agreed to participate but no date has been set for a potential showdown.