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History of the Citizens' Assembly

The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform was a unique initiative. Nowhere else in the world had such power over an electoral system been given to non-elected citizens.

The premier of B.C., Gordon Campbell, promised in 2001 that, if elected, his government would establish such an Assembly.

Here’s what happened after that:

  • Sept. 20, 2002: The new provincial government took its first step towards creating the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform by appointing Gordon Gibson to develop recommendations on how the assembly should function and be structured.
  • December 23, 2002: Gordon Gibson submitted his Report on the Constitution of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.
  • April 28, 2003: The government announced it would introduce a motion in the Legislature to establish the Assembly. That same day, the government nominated Dr. Jack Blaney as the chair of the assembly. And Attorney General Geoff Plant tabled the Assembly’s Terms of Reference and Duties of the Chair .
  • April 29, 2003: The Attorney General gave the required notice of motion to the Legislature to create the Assembly.
  • April 30, 2003: The Attorney General formally asked the House to support the creation of the Assembly. The motion was unanimously approved. A special committee of the legislature was set up: Its terms of reference authorize it to review Assembly staff appointments, and to receive interim reports from the Assembly chair on the progress of the Assembly’s work.
  • May 8, 2003: Jack Blaney is confirmed as Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly.
  • July 4, 2003: Leo Perra is appointed as Director of Operations for the Assembly.
  • July 2003: Voters List Registration Drive began.
  • July 28, 2003: Ken Carty was appointed Chief Research Officer for the Assembly.
  • August 22, 2003: Voters List Registration Drive concluded.
  • August 29, 2003: Harry Neufeld, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC, delivered to the Citizens’ Assembly 15,800 randomly selected names from British Columbia’s voters list. These names formed the pool of potential members for the member-selection process.
  • September 24, 2003: Marilyn Jacobson was confirmed Director of Communication and Don MacLachlan as Associate Director of Communication.
  • October 14, 2003: The first four members were selected at a meeting in Fort St. John. (Sadly, one of the four died before taking office, and another member was drawn in his place.) Another 25 selection meetings then followed, throughout B.C.
  • November 7, 2003: First meeting of Research Program Working Group. A group of political scientists and community advisors met with the Assembly’s research and education team to provide suggestions on the Assembly’s phases.
  • November 25, 2003: Five Vancouver members were selected, bringing the total to 157.  Only one member (from Vancouver-Kingsway) remained to be selected.
  • December 8, 2003: The 158th member was selected.
  • December 10, 2003: The provincial cabinet approved the addition of two Aboriginal members, also selected from the random pool.
  • December 22, 2003: The two Aboriginal members were selected, bringing the membership to 160. (Dr. Blaney is the 161st.)
  • January 10-11, 2004: The Assembly began its "Learning Phase" meetings, six weekends in January-March 2004. Meetings were held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, and were open to the public. (For its subsequent calendar and archive of events, click here.)
  • March 21, 2004: The Assembly issued a "Preliminary Statement to the People of British Columbia".
  • May 3, 2004: The Assembly began, in Vancouver, the first of 50 open public hearings, in communities large and small, all over B.C. (Here is the schedule of the meetings.)
  • June 24, 2004: The Assembly held the last of its 50 public hearings, in Kelowna.
  • June 26-27, 2004: The Assembly met in Prince George to review and discuss what members heard from British Columbians in the hearings and in written submissions, and to plan their fall sessions. The meeting was open to the public.
  • July – August 2004: Members took a summer "reading break", with homework that included some 1,600 written submissions from the public to study.
  • September 11, 2004: The Assembly began its "Deliberation Phase", six weekends of meetings at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver. Plenary sessions were open to the public. Nine plenary presentations were made, of the best presentations made at one of the public hearings.
  • September 27, 2004: The last date for making written submissions to the Assembly. In all, 1603 submissions were received.
  • October 23, 2004: Assembly members decided that, if they were to propose a new electoral system to the people of B.C., it would be a made-in-B.C. Single Transferable Vote (STV) model.
  • October 24, 2004: Members decided to recommend to the voters of B.C. that they replace the current First Past the Post electoral system with the Assembly's BC-STV model.
  • November 13-14 and 27-28, 2004: Final meetings of the Assembly, in Vancouver. On November 27, the members fine-tuned their BC-STV Recommendation, and drafted their Final Report. And on November 28 they ended their work, and prepared to disband.
  • December 10, 2004: The Assembly submitted its final report and recommendation to the people and government of British Columbia. A supporting Technical Report, with background documents and detailed explanations of BC-STV, was issued on 20 December 2004.
Closing phase

  • December 15, 2004: Citizens’ Assembly disbanded, and its office began to close.

  • May 17, 2005: B.C.'s voters cast ballots in a referendum on the Assembly's recommendation, as part of the provincial general election.

  • More detail on the Assembly's formation and operation is well covered in a presentation made by Leo Perra, the Assembly's chief operations officer, in Beijing. He was speaking there to the Sino-Canadian Seminar on Public Participation in the Legislative Process on 13 July 2004. We have online his speech as a Word document (100KB) and as a PDF file (260KB). He also used a PowerPoint presentation (it's a really big file of 84.2MB).
  • On October 23, 2004, the Assembly announced the first (and only) resignation of a sitting member, Paola Barakat of Richmond. That left the membership at 159 plus chair Jack Blaney.

Related Information

> Gov't announcement (28 April 2003)
> Premier's speech (28 April 2003)
> Gibson background
DetailsAcrobat PDF> The Gibson Report
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Government decisions
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Notice of Motion
> Motion approved
> Terms tabled
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Terms of reference
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Duties of chair
> Special committee
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Public brochure
DetailsWord Document> Member eligibility
> Cabinet meeting 10 December 2003 (transcript)
> Cabinet meeting 10 December 2003 (webcast)
> Order in Council #1197, 10 December 2003
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Mandate from the Terms of Reference
> Jack Blaney's opening speech, January 10, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Assembly policies and procedures
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Assembly statement of Shared Values
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Approved policy re: presentations to Assembly in plenary
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, Jan. 9-11, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, Jan. 24-25, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, Feb. 7-8, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, Feb. 21-22, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, March 6-7, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, March 20-21, 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Preliminary Statement to the People of BC
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, 11-12 September 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, 25-26 September 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, 16-17 October 2004
> Record of Proceedings, 23-24 October 2004
> Record of Proceedings, 13-14 November 2004
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Record of Proceedings, 27-28 November 2004
> Final Report (10 December 2004)
> Final Report (French)
> Final Report (Chinese)
> Final Report (Punjabi)
DetailsAcrobat PDF> Technical Report (20 December 2004)

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