Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, here seen at the start of her campaign, is calling on her supporters to vote for proportional representation in the current referendum. Other members of council have been more cautious or silent on the issue. Black Press File.

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, here seen at the start of her campaign, is calling on her supporters to vote for proportional representation in the current referendum. Other members of council have been more cautious or silent on the issue. Black Press File.

Saanich councillor calls on supporters to rep for proportional representation

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau has support of Coun. Nathalie Chambers

A Saanich councillor is calling on her supporters to vote in favour of changing the provincial election in favour of proportional representation.

“I generally try to keep my nose out of provincial politics, but there’s a critical campaign and referendum underway that can deliver us all a more fair and democratic electoral system,” said Coun. Rebecca Mersereau in an email to supporters. “I am a strong supporter of proportional representation (PR). I hope you’ll consider being one too, and perhaps even stepping forward to help the campaign, which is on until Nov. 30.”

WATCH: Proportional Representation 101

Mersereau has at least one supporter on Saanich council — Coun. Nathalie Chambers, who said she favour proportional representation 100 per cent. “This is the only way in my opinion to protect the environment and I have also campaigned for this and would join my fine new colleague in her support for PR.”

Coun. Judy Brownoff, meanwhile, neither commented on Mersereau’s appeal nor on her own position concerning PR.

“For me, I am telling voters to get informed on the issue(s) and vote accordingly,” she said.

RELATED: Proportional representation means more B.C. parties, coalitions

Eligible British Columbians are currently casting their ballots on the referendum, which started Oct. 22 — two days after Mersereau won her seat on Saanich city council with 18,416 votes the most of any elected candidate in the Greater Victoria area.

Broadly, the ballot first asks voters to decide whether they want to maintain the current first-past-the-post system (FPTP) system or replace it with proportional representation. Voters who chose PR must then rank three variants of PR.

Mersereau’s appeal to her voters includes not educational links about PR and a link to Elections B.C. for technical assistance, it also includes a link to the Victoria chapter of Fair Vote Canada.

RELATED: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in favour of proportional representation

To be clear: Mersereau’s appeal is not unusual. Municipal politicians routinely comment on provincial and federal issues, and regularly lend hands in federal and provincial campaigns. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, for example, has also come out in favour of PR. Other municipal politicians, meanwhile, have opposed PR. Mike Pearce, a former mayor of both Quesnel and Penticton, recently published an editorial in the Province newspaper in opposition. Other municipal leaders have either taken a wait-and-see approach or refrained from commenting on it.

Also not commenting on it is the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). Paul Taylor, director of communications said the organization, does not have a position on the referendum because the subject did not come up during the last conference.

A conference resolution tabled in 2000 called on UBCM to lobby the provincial government “to request that the Electoral Boundaries Commission, or some other appropriate and independent body, investigate, design and recommend a revised electoral system for British Columbia” as the then (and current) electoral system “frequently results in a government being elected with less than majority support.”

While that motion failed, the 2001 UBCM conference endorsed the provincial government’s “proposed initiative to establish a citizen’s commission to review the provincial electoral system.” It subsequently led to the 2005 referendum during which voters narrowly rejected the Single-Transferable Vote.

GUEST COLUMN: B.C.’s proportional representation vote is dishonest, misleading

The government of the time? The B.C. Liberals under former Gordon Campbell, whose party currently favour the status quo.

“The 2001 resolution is related to your question, but only as far as supporting a provincial initiative to review the system at that time,” said Taylor. “Given the province did held a referendum, the intent of the resolution was fulfilled. Since the resolution did not address the question of multiple referenda, the views of local government with regard to support for the current referendum remain unknown.”

 UBCM resolutions generally concern provincial policies as they relate to local government, he said. “UBCM does not have any policies in relation to the governance of provincial elections.”

The current referendum on electoral reform is the third in less than 15 years, and the first since 2009, when voters rejected the proposed Single Transferable Vote for the second time after 2005.

The Saanich News also asked Mersereau for an interview, and comments from all others members of council.


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wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

 

District of Saanich

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