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NDP and Greens host Victoria rally in favour of electoral reform as campaign kicks off

B.C. Premier John Horgan said the BC Liberals are using “fear and hysteria” to try and encourage British Columbians to vote against electoral reform in this fall’s referendum.

Horgan was speaking to a room packed with supporters in Victoria on Tuesday night as part of a kick-off rally for the government’s pro-proportional representation campaign.

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“This referendum allows us to bring proportional representation to British Columbia. A system that is fair, more responsive to government and it gets better outcomes for people,” Horgan said.

“Forty per cent of the votes get 40 per cent of the seats. There are those that will say this is complicated. I don’t think so. This number equals that number equals better representation for our community.”

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Elections BC started mailing ballots to homes across the province on Monday. British Columbians have until Nov. 30 to mail the ballots back.

Ballot counting will begin on Dec. 1 with the expectation that the referendum’s result will be known by the end of the month.

When the BC NDP and the BC Greens negotiated their power sharing agreement last year, it was agreed that the two sides would campaign in favour of changing the electoral system.

The ballot will ask British Columbians whether they want to change to PR or keep the current system. Voters will also be able to choose between three proportional systems.

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“It’s not about the winner take all. It’s not about less than 50 per cent getting 100 per cent of the power. It is about you mattering,” Horgan said.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver spoke at the rally as well.

He said changing the electoral system would allow people to vote for the party they want rather than be fearful of vote splitting.

Under the current system, voters are encouraged to vote strategically in some ridings in order to ensure a certain party doesn’t take power, rather than ensure the party they like is represented in a legislature.

WATCH HERE: Proportional representation referendum packages start to go out

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Proportional representation referendum packages start to go out

“The fear of vote splitting is a huge part of our first-past-the-post system,” said Weaver.

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“We have a chance to change the system so that it is more inclusive to ensure that every vote counts to ensure a system that lets people vote for what they want and not the fear of getting what they don’t want.”

WATCH: B.C.’s chief electoral officer walks through what you’ll find in your proportional representation referendum voting package

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What you need to know about the proportional representation voting package

Weaver also argued that proportional representation encourages voters to cast a ballot in ridings that have historically favoured one party or another. All three PR systems that are proposed would have elements of votes going toward party or regional seats, rather than just winner-take-all ridings.

“It makes people living in so-called safe ridings feel like their vote doesn’t matter,” said Weaver. “I believe that we have a vibrant democracy where people have a wide range of options.”

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Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has told British Columbians that he believes the referendum is “rigged” and the NDP and Greens are only trying to change the system because it benefits them.

The “No” side has argued that PR gives a powerful voice to fringe, extreme parties and causes unstable governments.

In speaking to the media on Tuesday, Wilkinson called the referendum “the most important decision that is going to be made in B.C. this decade.”

“It is not up to political parties to manipulate this and people need information that they crave to make a good decision,” said Wilkinson.

“We have a system that has been used for up to 300 years in the British Commonwealth. It works. It is very reliable and very stable. The NDP has put forward a very incomplete picture”

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