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Q and A
Citizens’ Assembly

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Why we might want it

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scope of the Assembly’s mandate?

The Citizens’ Assembly will be looking specifically at how we turn votes into seats in the British Columbia legislature. This means it will not be examining such issues as campaign financing, voting machines, electronic voting electoral boundaries, campaign advertising, etc.
According to the Terms of Reference, the Citizens’ Assembly will consider only electoral models that are "consistent with the constitution of Canada and the Westminster parliamentary system."

Which electoral systems will you consider?

The Citizens’ Assembly will examine a variety of electoral systems, including the "first past the post" system currently used in British Columbia.
The specifics of the Assembly's educational and research component will be determined by the members and the Assembly's Chief Research Officer. In keeping with the mandate, the Assembly will only consider models which are "consistent with the constitution of Canada and the Westminster parliamentary system.

Who else in Canada is reviewing the electoral system?

Several other provinces are also looking at electoral reform such as New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, as well as the City of Vancouver. Only in B.C., though, has the job been given to randomly selected citizens. Indeed, nowhere else in the world has such an independent and non-partisan group of citizens been so empowered.

How can British Columbians stay informed about the process?

In order to keep the public informed:
Citizens’ Assembly education sessions and meetings are open to the public.
All the learning materials prepared for Assembly members will be posted on our website and will be available from the Assembly office.
In April 2004, a report will be available describing what the Citizens’ Assembly thinks are some of the best options for the province.
A final report will be available by mid-December 2004, at the end of the Citizens’ Assembly process, describing its recommendation on B.C.’s electoral system.
Newsletters will be sent to those who sign up for updates on the Assembly.
The Citizens' Assembly will also keep the public informed through the news media.

Is this a wise use of scarce public funds?

Most British Columbians cherish our democratic system and are willing to make a prudent and timely investment in the health of our democracy.

What happens now the Citizens' Assembly has recommended a new electoral system?

The Assembly's recommendation goes to a referendum to be held, for all registered B.C. voters, along with the provincial election on May 17, 2005. To pass, and to become binding on the provincial government, the May 17 referendum would have to win with a "double majority", as follows:
Approval by at least 60% of the validly cast ballots province-wide,
And, as well, passage by more than 50% of the validly cast ballots in at least 48 of the 79 constituencies. (That is, by a simple majority in 60% of the ridings).
If the referendum passes, then the government must bring in appropriate legislation that would ensure the new electoral model can be in place for the election of May 2009.
These details are spelled out in the final version of Bill 52-2004, the "Electoral Reform Referendum Act".
This was passed in the legislature on 18 May 2004, and was given royal assent (thus formally becoming law) two days later. (Here, too, is a link to the provincial Referendum Act, to which Bill 52 refers.)
The government left it up to the members to draft a question for the referendum. This they did, and the question reads:
"Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform? Yes/No".
The members had advice on the wording from the government's constitutional lawyers, who were asked to confirm that the planned wording will stand up under our current constitution and laws.
Electoral boundary changes and redrawing constituency maps for BC-STV system would be up to the independent provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission.

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