An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE REFERENDUM on electoral change in B.C. should be called off, right now.
Premier John Horgan invalidated the process this week when he unilaterally changed horses on a detail of the mixed member proportional option for proportional representation.
He said if prop rep is approved, and if MMP is the preferred option, he’ll direct NDP MLAs on a legislature committee to oppose what’s called the closed-list appointment of MLAs.
That committee, often referred to as an all-member committee because it will include members of all three parties, will decide details of the new system. Most of the committee members will be NDP and Greens, so Horgan has the clout to tell it what to do — and he’s just proven that.
In MMP, 40 per cent of seats would be awarded to people on party lists. Under a closed list, voters wouldn’t vote on the party choices. Up until Horgan’s announcement this week, the closed vs. open list was to be left to the legislature committee to decide.
Changing the conditions for one of the options halfway through the referendum means those who vote from this point onward will do so under a different understanding than those who have already submitted their ballots.
That’s clearly unacceptable, and represents a major blunder on Horgan’s part. There’s no way the referendum result can now be rendered legitimate. Will Horgan change other fundamentals he thinks will give prop rep a better chance of winning?
The other compelling reason to call the whole thing off is the pathetic rate of return of mail-in ballots. Having not set a minimum turnout to make the result acceptable, Horgan has set up the very real possibility of a tiny percentage of the population making 100 per cent of the decision.
Of course, I suppose Horgan could change his mind on that as well.
The need to throw out this referendum and start over isn’t even anything that should be a matter of disagreement between the two sides. No one who is sincere about wanting a fair and legitimate process can argue with conviction that this process has been a good one.
Better to begin again and map out a referendum plan that includes a citizens’ assembly with proper consultation, a detailed plan for implementation of the winning option, and options that won’t be changed on the premier’s whim.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.