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News release - Prince George meetings

27th June, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Assembly eyes October decision

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform were urged Sunday to think about a late-October target date for reaching a decision on whether they think B.C. should have a new electoral system.

Meeting in Prince George, the 160-member Assembly wrapped up six months dedicated to investigating electoral options and British Columbians' views on them. 

They also voted to keep open to the public and the news media their plenary meetings in their "deliberation phase" in Vancouver in September, October and November.  This decision-making phase comprises five weekends: September 11-12, September 25-26, October 16-17, October 23-24 and November 13-14. All meetings will be held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in downtown Vancouver.

"We'll need to focus," advised Assembly chair Jack Blaney. "When we meet in the fall ... we really have four weekends to get it done. If we are going to recommend a change, we should know that by Weekend Four (October 23-24) so that we can then begin working on the wording of a referendum question."

The Citizens' Assembly is an independent, representative, non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians. They must decide by December 15 whether to propose a change to BC's electoral system.  If they recommend a change, it will be the subject of a referendum for all voters in the May 2005 provincial election.

The Assembly members anticipate that the referendum question would consist of a short preamble, and a simple question, perhaps along the lines of: "Are you in favour of the recommendations in the final report of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?  Yes/No."

Assembly members now face a summer of study, homework and reading. For one thing, there are already 700 submissions from the public online, and 200 more being processed. And there are reports on 387 presentations, plus other material, from 50 public hearings held all over B.C. in May and June.

The Assembly set a date of August 13 for receiving further written submissions. Submissions received before then will be processed and available to members before they begin deliberations in September.  Submissions received after this date will be processed but members do not guarantee they will be on tap by September 11.

When members get together again September 11, they'll begin with a day of presentations to the full Assembly by a number of groups and individuals. Then members will begin to wrestle with such questions as:

  • What core values ought to underpin our electoral system?
  • Does the Assembly wish to consider changes to B.C.'s current Single Member Plurality (SMP or "First Past the Post") system of translating provincial election votes into seats in the legislature?
If so, key questions could include:

  • Do we want some measure of proportionality in any new system?
  • Do we want some measure of local representation in any new system? What about regional differences?
  • Do we want different kinds of choices on our ballots?
  • Is there some other fundamental aspect of the electoral system we ought to consider?
  • What systems would accommodate our responses to the above questions?
  • Which one of these different systems would best serve British Columbia?
  • Do we clearly prefer this alternative system to our present SMP system?
  • Considering carefully the strengths and weaknesses of both systems, do we recommend that our current system be retained? Or do
    we recommend adoption of a new system?
A sixth weekend of meetings could be held November 27-28 if needed, but the final report and recommendation must be in by December 15.  And Blaney confirmed Sunday that the Assembly office will close and staff will disband by December 31.

Details of the fall meeting dates are on this website, as are summaries of the presentations made at the public hearings.
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