VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) has taken the next step and filed for an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court asking that the referendum on proportional representation be suspended until the ICBA’s challenge to the legality of the referendum, and to the process established by the NDP government limiting public expression during the referendum process, can be determined.

In the first meeting before Justice Gropper on July 7, the government asked for more time to consider the issues raised in ICBA’s original court petition.

“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. We prepared our challenge within a week, and they say they need two months,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA. “But, as we have said from the start, the question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation. Given that the NDP government needs more time to defend its own law and regulations, we think the only fair and reasonable course is for the referendum to be postponed.”

The two previous referenda on electoral reform in 2005 and 2009 were held at the same time as the provincial election and the proposals were debated extensively in the years leading up to the vote.  In this case, the NDP Government has decided to conduct the referendum by mail-in ballot in the fall following the municipal elections that will be held across the province.

“British Columbians deserve better than this,” said Gardner. “Changing the way we elect our government deserves more than passing consideration, it requires a fair and open process with a clear question and a timeline that will allow for a robust debate.”

ICBA states in its application for an injunction that there are times when governments do not act in the broader public interest and when that occurs, the actions of government are rightly curtailed and corrected by the courts. “The courts are the last resort to protect the fundamental rights of citizens seeking relief from governments blinded by partisan imperatives,” said Gardner.

The court previously indicated it would be willing to hear arguments for an injunction on August 7.

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 is inconsistent with sections 2(b) and 3 of the Charter, “which give British Columbians the right to meaningfully participate in a fair and comprehensible referendum process” in relation to fundamental changes to the electoral system, and hence the scope of the right to vote;
  • It is inconsistent with 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, which demonstrates the unreasonableness of proceeding with a binding referendum before a full, open, and transparent debate.

For the full text of ICBA’s application for an injunction, click HERE and to read the original petition, click HERE.