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News release - Assembly wraps up
28th November, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
'Great gift' to B.C.
Members of B.C.'s Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform wrapped up their 11-month mission Sunday with some last-lap drafting of their final report, and announced that a copy of the report will be sent in the last half of January to every household in B.C.
The Assembly also had its first visit Saturday from Premier Gordon Campbell. He presented each member with a commemorative certificate and, in turn, thanked them for their gift to the people of B.C.
"You came with open minds. You came with open hearts. You came ready to listen to people. . . Your diligence, your determination, have been exceptional. . . .
"It is a great gift you have given to all of us. You have given new life to public life in B.C."
Now, he noted, the decision on the Assembly's recommendation of a new proportional voting system (called BC-STV) is up to the voters of B.C., in a referendum next May 17, provincial election day.
"I hope everyone will listen to the public debate. . . . The people are engaging in a process that you have lead, and that engagement is invaluable to our province."
He later confirmed to reporters that an information office will be set up to give the public information on the BC-STV recommendation, but it will not promote or sell the recommendation. And while MLAs will be free to speak on it, the government and cabinet will remain neutral.
"I don't want anyone to say that this process has been tainted in any way by the premier's participation and the cabinet's participation," said Campbell.
Assembly members on Saturday fine-tuned the question they have drafted for the referendum. It now reads:
SPECIAL NOTE: After advice from legislative counsel, the question was reworded on 01 December. The question now reads:
Campbell urged the people of B.C. to learn about BC-STV, and to get involved in debate and discussion.
Assembly chair Jack Blaney praised the premier for establishing the Assembly, empowering it, and then giving it full independence from government — "an independence that was real, constant, and greatly valued by all members."
Added Blaney: "No government, in any democracy, has ever given such a charge to non-elected citizens. You set new rules — the new gold standard — for the true engagement of citizens in democratic governance. . . . And it is now being copied in Ontario, and watched around the world."
The new proportional electoral system the Assembly members are proposing for the province is called BC-STV, short for British Columbia Single Transferable Vote.
Under this system, voters rank candidates by numbers on the ballot paper. BC-STV is designed to make every vote count, and to reflect voters' support for candidates and parties as fairly as possible, while retaining local representation by MLAs.
It was proposed by the Assembly after 10 months of study, research and debate, including 50 public hearings and 1,603 written submissions from the public.
Now it's up to the voters of B.C., who will vote on BC-STV in a referendum in the next provincial election. The government says that if voters approve the proportional BC-STV model in May, it will introduce legislation so the new system can go into effect for the 2009 election.
The Assembly held its last meeting Sunday, capping six fall weekends of deliberation and decision-making. The Assembly's final report, which will include details of the proposed BC-STV system, will be made public December 10. Then the Assembly disbands and its office begins to close.
Copies of the report will be sent to all of B.C.'s 1.4 million households in mid- to late January. It will also be distributed to libraries, municipal halls, First Nations offices, schools and colleges, MLAs' offices, government agents, and more.
You can request a copy by calling the Assembly office at 604-660-1232 (toll-free: 1-866-667-1232) or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Citizens’ Assembly is an independent, representative, non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians, including chair Jack Blaney. Details of its work and the BC-STV system are at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca