EDITORIAL – What’s the government waiting for on PR referendum?

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE B.C. LEGISLATURE returns to work next week and maybe we’ll finally get some answers about the big referendum on electoral-system change.

The last provincial election was a year ago and John Horgan and the NDP have yet to outline a clear plan for how British Columbians are going to make a decision on continuing with first-past-the-post, or trading it for some form of proportional representation.

This has been the most unfair, stacked and botched process one can imagine. The ruling party badly wants proportional representation and looks to be doing everything it can to ensure the referendum provides the right answer.

A simple majority of the entire province will win the day — no consideration of regional threshholds. There has been no citizens’ assembly, as there was in the last two referendums on the question. There has been no credible public consultation aside from a rather lame on-line survey.

For the past couple of weeks, the Liberal opposition has been hammering the government in the Legislature on what the ballot will say, when the vote will be held and what the campaign rules will be. You know, the fundamentals.

As Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson asked about the government’s process, “Was this done by bots from Zimbabe?”

And Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have been unfailingly vague. Eby brags about “one of the largest engagements of British Columbians” ever, and says we’ll all be given the picture soon.

So far, it looks as though we won’t even be asked to choose what kind of proportional representation we want, or don’t want. Or will we? The government isn’t saying.

How can we vote on an issue if we don’t understand it? How can we understand it if we haven’t been provided the most basic of information?

All we know at this point is that there will be a referendum at an unspecified date before the end of November. Time’s a-wasting.

Time for some transparency.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (8312 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

8 Comments on EDITORIAL – What’s the government waiting for on PR referendum?

  1. Once again, Mel Rothenburger parroting the talking points of PR opponents, pretending to appear neutral when he is the most vociferous opponent of reform in Kamloops. Apparently, asking the public what they think and taking time to sift through the record feedback amounts to “the most unfair, stacked and botched process one can imagine”. This referendum will be the first time that a simple majority vote will be used to decide the question — making all votes equal. No wonder the biggest party in BC and their pundits are scared! PR would mean the end of one party with 30-something percent of the vote being able to govern as a dictatorship. It has been rather convenient for the power that be and their buddies — which helps explain why the opposition is led by a bunch of lobbyists and backroom dealers. Much easier to lobby one party for favours than two or three… I hope voters see through this fear-mongering. There are very good reasons why each and every commission and assembly which has ever been tasked with making a recommendation on voting systems has recommended that we switch to PR: a neutral review of the evidence shows that it works better for VOTERS (not politicians). When hearing arguments about PR, I urge voters to consider the source. Getting the money out of politics has been a good start. Getting a fair voting system where all of our voices are represented in proportion is the next step.

  2. I too wish we knew the question(s) regarding the upcoming referendum…
    That said, I think we need to give the NDP and Mr. Eby a bit of a break as it’s his portfolio as Attorney General that is also responsible for all the fiasco and legal challenges around the Kinder Morgan pipeline issues and there’s a deadline of May 31st to have that taken care of… I would think that takes priority for the moment.

  3. ken gray // May 3, 2018 at 1:22 PM // Reply

    I also lament that we do not yet have the question and any associated recommendations in hand by now. That said, your comment “voodoo math” certainly declares your decision on the matter. Why not wait a bit longer, and see what is proposed. I also agree that the online survey was convoluted and awkward. It is what it is, and the only way is forward. Let’s hope we have something clear and in hand by mid-summer and then a robust debate can occur.

  4. Tom Rankin // May 3, 2018 at 11:16 AM // Reply

    One certainly has to be suspicious. The NDP publicly state they want PR so what’s the delay? A simple two-part question is all it takes. (1) Do you want to stick with FPTP or change to a PR system?, and (2) If yes to (1), which of the following 2-3 systems would you prefer? As always KISS matters (Keep Information on Systems Simple). Let’s join the 90+ democracies using PR and show Justin that it’s not as scary as he thinks.

  5. Mel, if you’re still a journalist please do some research before splashing falsehoods that support your biased opinion…

    “There has been no credible public consultation aside from a rather lame on-line survey.”


    …a 10 second google search reveals that you are very wrong with these assertions. The “lame on-line survey” as you’ve described it garnered the largest response in British Columbia’s public engagement history with 88,000 responses.
    “Over the course of three months, the public engagement website received more than 180,000 site visits, with over 88,000 questionnaires completed. Visitors spent time on the site learning about the referendum and voting systems used in B.C. and elsewhere in the world, in addition to spending an average of about 16 minutes completing the questionnaire.”

    If you’re going to continually give your biased opinion so much air time at least balance it by inviting folks from Vote PR BC or Fair Vote an opportunity to present a differing perspective.

  6. This should be managed by Elections BC with an All-Party Legislative Committee….this is far to partisan. This has been tried 2 times in the past and failed; the fact that the NDP is politicizing the process will make everyone suspicious.

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