Get on it folks, says local MLA as referendum deadline nears

Haida Gwaii post offices got a small flurry of yellow referendum ballots last week, but turnout remains a concern as the Nov. 30 deadline approaches.

Less than eight per cent of North Coast voters have so far cast a ballot in the B.C. referendum on electoral reform. Province-wide, turnout stood at just 18 per cent.

Related: Voting system debate reaches Haida Gwaii

Islanders who haven’t voted already can drop their ballots off at the Service BC office in Queen Charlotte, or post them. This Friday, Nov. 23 is the last day for anyone who didn’t get a ballot to request one, and Elections B.C. must receive all ballots by 4:30 p.m. on the following Friday, Nov. 30.

The referendum will decide whether B.C. keeps using first-past-the-post or switches to proportional representation when electing the provincial government. If the proportional representation side wins, there will be a follow-up referendum in two years to confirm the change.

“Regardless of how people vote in Haida Gwaii and the Bella Coola Valley, I’m just encouraging folks to get on it,” says North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice.

Rice mailed her ballot last week, checking the box in favour of proportional representation, or “pro rep.”

While she nearly chose mixed-member proportional, of the three pro-rep options, Rice felt rural-urban proportional would be the best fit for North Coast.

“I’m pretty good with either,” she said. “They are two systems that have been tested, and I think they make sense for both the rural and urban parts of the province.”

While critics of pro-rep often say it means less of a voice for sparsely populated rural ridings, Rice says all three pro-rep options on the ballot would see actually see little change for large rural ridings — it’s in the cities that voters will notice the biggest shifts in riding boundaries and candidate lists.

“Of course, they’re not perfect, but I think any of the three are better than first-past-the-post,” Rice said, noting that under the current, winner-takes-all system, voters in her own NDP-strong riding rarely see their votes elect anyone, while the opposite is true for non-BC Liberal voters in the northeast.

“Regardless, is that really fair?” she said.

Bill Tieleman, campaign director for the No Proportional Representation Society, said last week that the referendum vote should be extended given the rotating Canada Post strikes in the province. Elections B.C. said it is considering the idea.

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