EDITORIAL – Wording of referendum will kill proportional representation

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

LET’S SEE IF we can boil down the plan for a referendum on electoral-system changes in B.C., shall we?

Notice, by the way, I use the neutral term “electoral-system change” rather than the loaded “electoral reform” as favoured by the government. To reform something means to improve it, and it’s by no means certain that anything will be improved by this referendum.

Anyway, the report released by Attorney General David Eby and immediately hailed by Premier John Horgan proposes that we vote not on one question, but on several, with two different ways of voting on them.

We are to vote first on whether we want to change the system, and then on three proportional-representation options if we indeed want to change it. But if we don’t want to change the system, we can still vote on the second question.

The first question is a straight choice, the second will employ a ranked ballot.

We are not to worry about the details of how the change is to come about if we vote yes to change. That will all be worked out for us.

Not only that, a second referendum would be held two elections from now, as if the government of that future day could in any way be bound to follow through with it.

So much for the simplicity and clarity promised by the government.

No citizens assembly, no regional threshold, no all-party committee, no Legislative debate. Not even any electoral maps of what ridings would look like under any of the three PR options.

As Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson described it Wednesday, “It is massively biased in a stacked deck in a rigged game.”

And Premier John Horgan’s response to demands for clarity? “Are you so obtuse that you don’t understand?”

Isn’t that nice?

That said, the Eby report has done a big favour for opponents of proportional representation. The ballot is so cluttered with options and alternative, overly complicated, voting systems that, surely, voters will ignore the mess and make an easy decision — keep first-past-the-post.

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 (6691 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.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Wording of referendum will kill proportional representation

  1. The first question is a simple choice between what we have now and a proportional system. Easy peasy. The second (optional) question lets voters decide which model they prefer, if they choose to engage that far. Are you seriously suggesting that BC voters are too simple-minded to grasp these questions? I have a little more faith in us than you do.

  2. David Goar // May 31, 2018 at 7:10 AM // Reply

    I, respectfully, disagree. I believe BC can, and will, lead this country toward systemic change. As citizens of this province, we have demonstrated our appetite for real change on numerous occasions, but have been stymied by political “ smoke and mirrors “, involving super majorities and obtuse referendum questions. Many of us voted, in the federal election for a politician, and a party, who promised that “ this will be the last election decided by the obsolete first past the post system, only to find that both the promise and the man were devoid of integrity.

    We now have a real chance at actual systemic change to our outdated and unfair electoral system. Many other jurisdictions have adopted such change and made their electoral systems, and governments, much more responsive to the true “ will of the people “. Having been given a real opportunity, we would be foolish not to do likewise.

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