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News Release: BC Government Rags the Puck on Prop Rep Court Challenge

VANCOUVER – The B.C. Government’s delay tactics trying to slow down a court challenge of David Eby’s proportional representation referendum process are disappointing and harm the public interest, said the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) today.

ICBA is challenging the referendum process, saying it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, lawyers for the Attorney General were successful in getting hearings pushed all the way to September, just weeks before voting is set to begin Oct. 22.

“It’s hard to imagine that the NDP Government needs more time – it’s their rules, it’s their process and it’s their referendum,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA. “This is a matter of vital importance to British Columbians, and its incumbent on the Attorney General to respond and defend the referendum and a process that many independent observers have rightly criticized.”

The delay means the current limitations on debate and election advertising will remain in effect. ICBA plans to file for an injunction in early August – the earliest available opportunity.  “The question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation,” said Gardner. “British Columbians deserve better than this.”

“The government has made it clear it will do whatever it takes to prevent our petition from being heard in a timely way,” said Gardner. “We’re not going away – the issues are simply too important to give up in the face of the government’s attempt to prevent these issues from being heard in a timely manner.”

The ICBA petition lays out arguments that the prop rep referendum process is flawed legally and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including:

  • It is not consistent with the NDP Government’s own Referendum Act, which calls for “a clear statement of the majority of voters on whether to implement a well-defined and comprehensible new voting system, or to keep the existing electoral system”;
  • It violates foundational constitutional principles, which require a binding referendum on matters of fundamental importance, “endorsed by a clear majority on a clear question”;
  • It does not meet sections 2(b) and 3 of the Charter, “which give British Columbians the right to meaningfully participate in a fair and comprehensible referendum process”;
  • It does not meet sections 2(b) and 2(d) of the Charter, which require that “British Columbians be able to fully express themselves and debate fundamental changes to the design of the democratic system”;
  • The regulations unlawfully restrict freedom of expression, freedom of debate on matters of public interest, and freedom of association; and
  • The Rural-Urban prop rep option, which is not in existence anywhere in the world, violates sections 3 and 15 of the Charter as it creates two different electoral systems that would operate simultaneously.

For the full text of ICBA’s challenge, click HERE.

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