B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson gathers his opposition caucus outside the B.C. legislature to call for a “prime time” debate with Premier John Horgan on electoral reform, Oct. 23, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Time running out for TV debate on proportional representation

B.C. Liberal leader spars with Premier John Horgan over timing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson devoted most of his legislature time Tuesday to demanding that Premier John Horgan set a date for an evening TV debate on his government’s referendum on voting reform.

Throughout question period, in a brief rally with MLAs outside, and then debating the latest legislation to offer the option of a second referendum, Wilkinson hammered at Horgan to keep his Oct. 4 promise to debate.

Horgan replied that Wilkinson “can’t take yes for an answer,” and his staff have only to finalize a date.

“I’ve agreed to debate the member in November,” Horgan told the legislature. “We’re working with the networks to find a day.”

Wilkinson said later he has been offered evening airtime on Global TV, and only Horgan’s reluctance to set a date has held up the scheduling. In the legislature, he accused the NDP of “voter suppression” tactics, keeping interest in the vote low while public sector unions and other government allies work to win a low-turnout referendum.

Voting packages began being mailed out this week, with a deadline of the end of November to have them filled out and returned. The delays mean many people will have voted by the time a debate happens, and the choices and process are intentionally complicated, he said.

“People will look at this package and say, ‘I don’t even understand what this is about,’ and throw it out,” Wilkinson said.

Horgan was scheduled to join Finance Minister Carole James, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and Green MLA Sonia Furstenau at a rally in downtown Victoria Tuesday evening.

B.C. Liberal MLA Sam Sullivan said he was surprised to find that a video he made to illustrate the manipulation that went into preparing the referendum could not be promoted with a $50 advertising fee on his Facebook page, because Elections B.C. rules for the referendum don’t permit him to spend money.

RELATED: Horgan agrees to debate, Sullivan releases video

Most importantly, the government has introduced a bill to have a second referendum,” Sullivan said. “The only reason why they introduced this in the middle of the campaign is to influence people to vote yes. This violates the spirit of the Referendum Act.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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