(Black Press Media file photo)

COLUMN: Voters deserve more time, info ahead of referendum

Delta South MLA Ian Paton offers his views on electoral reform

Delta South MLA Ian Paton. (Photo submitted)

The North Delta Reporter reached out to Delta’s two MLA’s — Delta South MLA Ian Paton (BC Liberal) and Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) — to get their thoughts about the current referendum on electoral reform and what it means for Deltans. Read Kahlon’s column here.

I am incredibly proud to represent the riding of Delta South, my home. I’ve lived here my whole life, on a family farm that’s one of many in the area. Our family has deep roots in the Delta community, and in the agricultural community as well. That means a lot to us, to our neighbours and fellow residents.

I believe our community functions best when it is represented by people who understand it. I believe citizens want a representative who knows the city, and the sectors and organizations that contribute to its success, as well as the people who make a difference in our community.

I am deeply concerned that level of local representation will be lost under a system of proportional representation (PR). I’m worried about our riding becoming drastically larger, with potentially more than one MLA. We could see MLAs being selected from a party list, rather than elected by voters.

RELATED: John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson square off on B.C. voting referendum

Of course, we don’t know the specifics of how the three PR options on the ballot would work in Delta if enacted, because the government has decided at least 29 of those details will be determined after you’ve cast your vote.

Many of the people I’ve spoken with in our community are concerned by that. They look at how B.C. carried out its two previous referendums on electoral reform and wonder why we can’t access the same level of information.

In 2005, an independent citizens’ assembly comprised of British Columbians from every corner of the province took an entire year to review various systems and make recommendations. Their examination was thorough and thoughtful, and British Columbians were given the time and information needed to make an informed decision.

In 2009, riding maps were added that clearly showed people how their ridings might look if we changed our electoral system.

This time around, we’re not getting anywhere near the level of detail we did previously. The premier has asked us to “take a leap of faith” and vote in favour of PR, with the actual details to be ironed out afterwards.

RELATED: British Columbians in ‘dead heat’ on electoral reform: poll

So, instead of having an all-party committee do it ahead of time — as the government previously promised — the committee will do that work after the fact. And guess what, the committee’s membership is slanted in favour of the NDP and Greens, who have been vocal supporters of PR.

The government has also lowered the threshold for voter approval to the lowest level possible, 50 per cent plus one, and removed an important regional threshold that takes into account B.C.’s unique geography — a move that will diminish rural voices.

These and other aspects of this referendum have been skewed from the start to achieve the outcome the NDP and Greens are looking for: a change to a PR system. The Greens know PR will increase their number of seats in the legislature, and the NDP wants to help them get what they want to ensure the Greens keep propping them up in government.

It’s my view that the government has unfairly rigged this process for political gain, and is rushing it along instead of giving voters adequate time, consultation and information. I will be voting to stay with the current system, a system I understand, that has worked well to produce clear outcomes, and that preserves local representation.

Ian Paton is the BC Liberal MLA for Delta South and the official Opposition co-critic for agriculture, and is member of the select standing committee on health.



editor@northdeltareporter.com

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