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Newsletter #14

16th August, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)

Plenary presenters picked

A special selection committee of Citizens' Assembly members has determined which presenters from public hearings held in May and June will be heard by the entire Assembly on Saturday September 11 – the first day of the Assembly's fall "deliberation phase".

The committee's selections were based on criteria established by the Assembly back in February. The key ones were quality of public hearing presentation and relevance to the Assembly's mandate.

By consensus, the committee selected nine presenters:

  • Arpal Dosanjh of Vancouver, who made a presentation in Vancouver June 12, calling for an Alternative Vote (AV) system. On AV ballots, voters rank candidates in numerical order of preference. If no candidate gains a majority on the first count, the second preferences listed on the ballots of the least successful candidate are distributed among the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate has a majority. British Columbia used AV balloting in 1952 and 1953.
  • Katherine Gordon of Gabriola Island, who spoke at a public hearing in Nanaimo May 27. She proposes a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system, as she experienced in New Zealand. Voters would vote for both their choice of local MLA and for a preferred party. In the end, each party's share of seats in the House would reflect as closely as possible its share of the popular vote.
  • Bruce Hallsor of Victoria, who addressed a public hearing there on June 10. He spoke on behalf of the Fair Vote Canada organization, of which he is vice-president. He says MMP or the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system would best suit B.C. and he compares them. In STV, voters rank candidates in order of preference; ballots are then counted so that the candidates with the highest preferences are elected.
  • Tom Hoenisch of Naramata, who spoke in Penticton June 23. He also proposed an MMP system, with the number of seats in the provincial legislature being reduced to 72 from the current 79. In his system, half the members would be elected in constituencies that coincide with the 36 federal ridings in B.C. The other 36 would come from party lists of candidates.
  • Nick Loenen of Richmond, who spoke at a public hearing in Richmond on May 4. He recommends a "Preferential Plus" system (a combination of AV and STV), with preferential voting in multi-seat ridings for urban areas and single-seat ridings for rural areas, thus producing semi-proportional representation. He's a former Social Credit MLA, is a director of Fair Voting BC, and wrote the book Citizenship and Democracy, a case for proportional representation.
  • Ian McKinnon of Victoria, who made a public presentation in Ganges, Salt Spring Island, on June 19. He spoke of how different electoral systems can cause changes in the power and methods of operation of political parties, including the selection of candidates. He also urged the Assembly to think about the consequences of repeated minority governments.
  • Chris Morey , mayor of Fort Nelson, who spoke there on May 11. She said that representation by a "local" MLA is particularly important in remote and rural regions, and that any electoral system must ensure it continues. Some electoral systems would require larger constituencies (unless the Legislature were increased in size). Mayor Morey argued against larger ridings, saying voters in areas such as hers would be "outnumbered, outvoted and not counted."
  • Jim Nielsen of Peachland, who spoke in Kelowna on June 24. The former Social Credit provincial cabinet minister strongly defended the current single-member plurality (SMP) system, often known as First Past the Post (FPTP). He said: "A run-off vote to confirm a majority vote for members may be quite acceptable, but the concept of Proportional Representation would be a monumental error of judgment."
  • Julian West of Ladysmith, who addressed a public hearing in Nanaimo May 27. Dr. West advocates a modified form of STV, with constituencies of as many as 5-7 members in urban areas, and 2-3 in remote areas. His electoral districts would be based strongly on existing Regional Districts and municipalities. He called for a system of "circuits", so that each community is represented by an individual MLA.
Presentations will run from 9am – 4pm September 11, at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. Open to the public, but seating is limited; first come, first served. (Live audio and video feeds will run in an overflow room.).

New on our website

Now online:

  • Audio and videocoverage of the Assembly's meetings in Prince George on June 26-27. At these sessions, members reviewed what they had heard and learned from the public. They also began to plan the fall meetings at which they will work towards a decision. Look under "Learning Resources" on the homepage, then select "Learning Materials", then "Audio and Video". Also on that page is a new video vignette from the Knowledge Network.
  • A small photo gallery showing Assembly members and the Assembly process in action. You'll find it on our website under "News & Events". It offers 16 photos.
  • A detailed look at the history and operations of the Citizens' Assembly, given by Leo Perra, the Assembly's chief operations officer, to an audience in Beijing. He was speaking to the Sino-Canadian Seminar on Public Participation in the Legislative Process on July 13. It was sponsored by the Parliamentary Centre of Canada. We now have his presentation on our website, as a Word document and as a PDF file.
  • An article on the Assembly by Prof. R.S. Ratner of UBC, first published in the summer issue of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
  • We also have more on the website from the nine people selected to make plenary presentations on September 11, with links to what they earlier advised the Assembly.
Summer reading list

Members of the Citizens' Assembly have been busy on their summer Reading Break — two months of study, reading, review and homework.

Their reading list includes:

  • Submissions given to the Assembly in writing.
  • Summaries of presentations that were made at 50 public hearings by more than 370 individuals and groups, all over B.C., in May and June.
  • The members’ main textbook: Electoral Systems: a comparative introduction, by David M. Farrell (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2001). ISBN 0-333-80162-8 (paperback), 0-333-80162-X (hardback)
If you'd like to do some electoral reading along with the members, we also have on our website an overview of what Assembly members heard at the public hearings, summaries of the hearings, the news releases that the Assembly issued after each public hearing, and a page of "Recommended Reading". You'll find this last item (and much more) on the Assembly website under "Learning Resources".

More submissions online

We now have more than 1,100 submissions posted on the website and more are being processed. To date, we have received well over 1,300 written submissions.

Submissions that were received prior to August 13 will be made available to members before their deliberation weekends begin on September 11-12.

You can still add your views by providing your submission via our website, e-mailing it to or mailing it to our office. (The address is below.) Submissions received later than August 13 will be processed and posted on the website, but will not necessarily be available to members prior to September 11-12.

The fall calendar

Assembly members are looking at six busy weekends of meetings this fall for their "deliberation phase" and decision-making.

Here are the dates confirmed: (The detailed agenda for each weekend is still being drafted and, when complete, will be posted on the Assembly website.)

  • September 11-12: Plenary presentations from nine invited presenters, and beginning of decision process.
  • September 25-26
  • October 16-17
  • October 23-24
  • November 13-14
  • November 27-28
  • December 15: Deadline for final report to the people of B.C. The Citizens’ Assembly then disbands.
Note the two consecutive weekends in October. That’s to accommodate the Thanksgiving Day weekend, with Thanksgiving Day falling on Monday October 11.

All meetings are at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver (580 West Hastings Street). Public plenary meetings are admission-free. Seating is limited; we suggest you come early. (For extra visitors on September 11, audio and video feeds will be run to an overflow room.) Saturday meetings normally run from 9am-noon, and from 1:30pm – 4:30pm. Sunday meetings are set to run from 9am-12:30pm.
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