Minimum turnout should be set for prop rep vote

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
October 12, 2017 - 5:05am Updated: October 12, 2017 - 11:01am

KAMLOOPS — As long as we’re going to be subjected to the proportional representation version of the old Groundhog Day movie, we’d better find a formula for approval that’s fair to both sides — and I think I have one.

B.C. has now voted twice on prop rep, or PR, rejecting it both times. In 2005, it fell just a few percentage points short of the 60 per cent threshold needed for approval. Four years later, support plummeted to 39 per cent, probably because voters were offered a clear question and a clear choice — proportional representation or first past the post. They said, thanks for asking, but we’re happy where we are.

The turnout was pretty good, 61 per cent the first time and 55 per cent the second, an indication that people take this issue seriously.

The NDP government says it will give prop rep fans their wish and set the approval threshold at only 50 per cent plus one vote in this newest referendum, which they promise will happen before the end of November 2018 using a mail-in ballot. That’s a terrible idea — changing the electoral system should require more than half-hearted assent, but let’s make the best of it.

In 2009, in addition to the 60 per cent overall, it would have required 50 per cent yes in at least 60 per cent of the ridings. Since the new bar is to be set at only 50 per cent plus one, here are three conditions that should be added to the 2018 vote.

Besides 50 per cent plus one overall, how about we add 50 per cent plus one in at least 60 per cent of the ridings, and a mandatory minimum turnout of 60-per-cent in 100 per cent of the ridings? 

Secondly, there should be a guarantee that if prop rep is approved, it must come back for reconsideration at the end of two election cycles, after we’ve seen whether it’s working.

And thirdly, if it's defeated, nobody should be able to try it again for at least 20 years.

Even the prop-rep folks can’t argue against the fairness of that. And it’s complicated, just the way they like it.