BC Attorney General David Eby released a report this morning, detailing the results of the citizen engagement on electoral reform, which informed his 18 recommendations to cabinet for how the fall 2018 referendum should be structured.
The public engagement ran for 14 weeks, ending Feb. 28, 2018, and drew 180,000 visits to the “How We Vote” website, with what the government said was a record 91,725 questionnaires completed.
Another 1,101 questionnaires were completed by a panel selected to represent BC’s demographic mix to provide a base for comparison to the website respondents. Substantive written submissions were received by 46 organizations and 208 individuals.
“British Columbians made their voices and their values heard, and it was important we gave them the opportunity to direct how this referendum should work,” said Eby. “This input has provided us a firm footing for the recommendations I am putting forward to cabinet.”
While Eby said the engagement marked a first step in involving the public more meaningfully in the democratic process, “ultimately, British Columbians, through the referendum, will determine how we vote in BC.”
Eby’s recommendations to cabinet cover all aspects of the fall 2018 referendum, which will decide whether BC keeps its current First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system or moves to a system of proportional representation (PR).
The report recommends that the referendum ballot include two questions:
1. Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vote for only one.):
- The current First Past the Post voting system
- A proportional representation voting system
2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer? (Vote for the voting systems you wish to support by ranking them in order of preference. You may choose to support one, two or all three of the systems.):
- Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
- Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
- Rural-Urban PR
If a majority of responses to the first question vote to adopt a proportional representation voting system, then responses to the second question would determine which system is implemented in British Columbia.
The report’s key recommendations also include:
- The referendum campaign period begin July 1, 2018, and end by Nov. 30, 2018.
- The referendum voting period (by mail-in ballot) run Oct. 22, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2018.
- The chief electoral officer, who is independent of government, provide neutral and factual information to voters about the referendum, including voting systems on the ballot.
- The chief electoral officer select one designated group to advocate on behalf of retaining the current FPTP voting system, and one to advocate on behalf of PR, using a selection process similar to the 2009 referendum on electoral reform.
- If voters decide to adopt a proportional representation system, a second referendum be held following two general elections, where voters would decide to keep the new system or return to FPTP.
The report describes the three proportional representation systems to be included on the ballot, which correspond to the engagement with British Columbians.
If a proportional system is adopted, it must include various features such as:
- No significant increase in the size of the legislature.
- No region of the province having fewer MLAs than it currently has.
- No political party being eligible to receive a seat if they receive less than 5% of the overall vote in the province or region.
Eby presented the report with recommendations to the public, prior to delivering it to cabinet for deliberation.