Summerland Chamber letter raises concerns about proportional representation referendum

Similar concerns about upcoming referendum have been addressed by B.C. Chamber of Commerce

The Summerland Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to MLA Dan Ashton, raising concerns about the upcoming referendum on election reform.

The six-page letter is signed by David Hull, executive director of the Summerland Chamber. The chamber represents 750 businesses in the community.

“A change in the method by which B.C. elects its provincial leaders will fundamentally transform the governance structure of the province and have significant implications for the business community,” the letter states.

“We are concerned that the current referendum process lakes clarity and transparency, and the results may lack legitimacy.”

Instead of presenting a simple choice, the ballot first asks voters to decide on the present first past the post voting method and then rank three models of proportional representation.

“This multi-step voting process is needlessly complex,” the letter states.

He added that the two-stage process also acts as two referendums in one, resulting in a lack of transparency.

The question of legitimacy comes since the referendum will be decided based on a threshold of 50 per cent plus one of the respondents.

Past electoral referendums, in 2005 and 2009, required 60 per cent voter approval.

Hull said he was in favour of the Single Transferrable Vote system of 2005, were voters ranked the candidates in order of preference. But he believes the proportional representation model would put more power into the hands of the parties rather than the voters.

Mail-in ballots have received responses from fewer than half of eligible voters, with 35.8 per cent participating in the provincial treaty referendum in 2002 and 48.6 per cent participating in the 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit referendum.

“In theory, if these voter turnouts are replicated, 18 to 24 per cent of the electorate could decide a change in voting systems.”

Hull is also concerned that the electoral referendum process is rushed and should be thought out more carefully.

The same concerns are outlined in a B.C. Chamber of Commerce resolution entitled Engaging Business and Communities on Electoral Reform.

The resolution was passed at the 2018 annual general meeting of the B.C. Chamber.

A similar letter, following the same points as in Hull’s letter, was sent from the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce to B.C. Attorney General David Eby earlier this month.

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