Robert MacLean of Fair Vote Cowichan said the referendum question on proportional representation that was presented on May 30 may be convoluted.
But he said the outcome is too important to democracy in B.C., and beyond, for the province’s voters to stick with the current first-past-the-post electoral system.
MacLean said voter turnout across the western world, particularly among young people, has been declining at a steady rate over the years and the flawed electoral system is one of the major reasons why.
“I think many young people are interested in reviving our threatened democracies across the west, and introducing proportional representation may be part of the solution,” said MacLean, who is a spokesman for the Cowichan chapter of Fair Vote Canada BC, one of 25 local chapters across the province leading the campaign for proportional representation in B.C.
The province’s Attorney General David Eby announced on Wednesday that British Columbians will likely choose between four options, spread over two questions, in a referendum over what electoral system they would like to use in the future in a vote he recommends take place by mail-in ballot between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30.
Eby said that he has recommended to cabinet that voters be asked whether they would like to keep the current first-past-the-post voting system, or move to a proportional representation voting system in the first question.
Voters will be asked in a separate question which of three models of proportional representation they would prefer; dual-member proportional representation, mixed-member proportional representation, or rural-urban proportional representation.
Each option will also come with lengthy explanations of what they entail on each ballot.
MacLean acknowledged that the second referendum question is convoluted, but the first question is straightforward.
“If voters give a clear direction for change based on the first question, I think the rest will work itself out,” he said.
“It’s really too soon to call at this stage what way the vote will go because people’s attention has been consumed recently by the oil pipeline issue, but we’re hoping people will pay attention and vote on this important issue in the referendum.”
Sonia Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley and the B.C. Green Party’s spokesperson for electoral reform, commended Eby for his recommendations on the referendum.
“I look forward to the Attorney General’s recommendations being finalized by cabinet,” she said.
“It’s time to get started on this important conversation about the future of our democracy. I am pleased that the AG took advice from a wide range of voices who participated in this consultation process and that his recommendations reflect the concerns and desires of the whole province.”
Furstenau said the Green Party supports proportional representation because it leads to more democratic outcomes.
“Too many people feel they have to vote strategically against whichever party they don’t want,” she said.
“Proportional representation gives voters the chance to vote for what they actually want, so they can vote out of hope, not fear.”