Excerpt from debate during Question Period in the B.C. Legislature today (Wednesday, May 30, 2018) on the proposal for wording of the ballot on proportional representation. Vancouver-Langara Liberal MLA Michael Lee questions Attorney General David Eby and Premier John Horgan:
M. Lee: We clearly are talking about a fundamental change, potentially, to the way we elect members to this Legislative Assembly. We’re talking about a fundamental change to our democratic process and system. This is not about shutting down British Columbians. This is about ensuring that we have a clear, fair and transparent referendum.
British Columbians need to know what they’re voting on. What’s been proposed this morning is part of a rigged game that’s been clearly decided behind closed doors. Well, we need to know what is going to be asked to British Columbians. They are being presented with forms of electoral systems for which we don’t even know the details. How could the Premier possibly justify withholding specifics, including riding maps, of these convoluted three forms of PR until after the vote?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Eby: It was a pleasure to work on this and to hear from British Columbians across the province about different systems that they advocated for. I can tell you that there are many different systems out there that people are advocating for.
The systems that are on the ballot include a system used in Germany; include a system based on STV, which was part of the Citizens’ Assembly process; and include a system that was on the ballot in P.E.I. as well. I can advise the member that there are multiple pages of descriptions of all three systems. Any implementation details that are not covered will be addressed by an all-party committee after the referendum, if people vote to change.
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the response.
Hon. D. Eby: The members should know that in P.E.I. and in New Zealand, when they did this referendum, they didn’t have electoral maps either. The challenge is the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which draws up these maps…. It’s quite a lengthy process for them to do that, to hear submissions, to do that for multiple systems.
The member said that they wanted clear systems. I heard that. They wanted people to be able to provide clear direction on systems. But it’s not pragmatic or practical to have the Electoral Boundaries Commission draw up maps for three different systems. So we provided British Columbians with multiple pages of details on these, including key principles about simplicity of the ballot, rural representation, local accountability.
I believe we’ve heard British Columbians. I believe that that’s reflected in the ballot and the details that have been provided. Any implementation questions after the referendum, if British Columbians choose to move in that direction, will be dealt with by an all-party committee in which no party has the majority.
Mr. Speaker: Vancouver-Langara on a supplemental.
M. Lee: Since this government formed itself with the NDP and the Green Party, we’ve been asking questions in this House about this referendum process. As we said through this week, this government has taken ten months to get to this stage. To suggest that there’s not enough time to determine what the implications are under these three convoluted forms of PR that are being proposed, is, I think, an insult to British Columbians.
You’ve clearly gamed this process. You’ve left it to the last day before the House rises. You’ve jammed this report in, and you’re telling us that the details are going to have to wait until after the vote. How can that possibly be acceptable to British Columbians? It is not.
This, again, is about a clear, fair and transparent referendum. British Columbians deserve to have — in the words of advocates for this referendum — a fair vote. This is not a fair vote. The details of this referendum need to be up front. They need to be determined now, before the vote takes place. It’s just not acceptable for the Premier to sit there and suggest: “Trust us.”
Will the Premier reject the recommendations that have been presented today?
Hon. J. Horgan: I trust British Columbians. That’s who I trust. British Columbians….
Hon. J. Horgan: British Columbians will have five months….
Hon. J. Horgan: I’m shocked, hon. Speaker, that members who have been long-standing members of this House don’t understand what electoral boundaries commissions do. If I understand them correctly, hon. Speaker, over the din….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Premier, you can rise again to answer the question when you think you can be heard.
Hon. J. Horgan: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
We have independent commissions to draw up boundaries because that separates government from the voters. That ensures independence. I’m surprised they don’t understand that.
Government received today a report from the Attorney General. We will review that report. There will be a question put to the people this fall. It will ask them: do they want to keep the system they have, that has, for years and years, provided absolute power to the people who get a minority of the votes, or do they want to vote for something different? Do they want to vote to put people back in the centre of their politics by allowing an opportunity to select from three options. And when that option is selected….
Hon. J. Horgan: You’re not getting the information. Are you so obtuse that you don’t understand? You can google this stuff.
Mr. Speaker: Maybe we can now move to a more productive use of question period time.
Mr. Speaker: No, my reference was to all of the noise without people being on the floor. The issue, of course, is important, but the background noise is not.
Source: BC Hansard.