Elections B.C. hands out $500,000 each to two groups involved in referendum on electoral reform

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      Vote PR B.C. and the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society were big winners today.

      That's because Elections B.C. has selected each of them as the official proponent and opponent group in the upcoming referendum on electoral reform.

      Each group will receive $500,000 in public funds and be permitted to spend up to $700,000 arguing their case.

      Vote PR B.C.'s president is long-time electoral-reform advocate Anthony Hodgson.

      Other board members are former Fair Vote Canada executive members Terrie Dance Bennik, Mark Mitchell, and Jason McLaren.

      No B.C. Proportional Representation Society was created by former NDP government communications director Bill Tieleman, former B.C. Liberal attorney general Suzanne Anton, and former senior civil servant Bob Plecas.

      In the referendum, voters will be asked if they want to change the first-past-the-post system to one based on proportional representation.

      If they respond yes, then they will be asked which system they prefer:

      * dual member, in which neighbouring constituencies merge and two MLAs are elected—one with the most votes and the second based on the proportion of the vote that the party receives across the province;

      * mixed member proportional, in which some MLAs are elected in districts, which would be larger than the current constituencies, and others would be regional candidates elected based on a party list;

      * and rural-urban proportional, in which MLAs in urban and semi-urban areas are elected in a ranked ballot and those in rural areas are chosen through a mixed member proportional system.

      Supporters of proportional representation say that it has a far greater likelihood of creating a government that reflects the will of the people.

      Critics, however, claim that it increases the likelihood of extremists parties gaining a foothold in the B.C. legislature.

      One of Tieleman's objections has been that the referendum is being held even though no maps have been created showing electoral boundaries under any of the proportional systems.

      The campaign period began on July 1 and ends on November 30.

      People will vote by mail from October 22 until November 30.

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