VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) is disappointed that the BC Supreme Court was unwilling to press the pause button on holding the referendum on proportional representation. Earlier today, the Court rejected the application by ICBA for an injunction to postpone the referendum before a ruling is issued on its legal challenge. The Courts rarely, if ever, grant such an injunction, and Justice Gropper made that point clearly in her decision today. We understood this likelihood but given the critical importance of this matter and the very short time frame which the NDP government set for the referendum period we decided to pursue this course of action.
Our challenge was delayed because the NDP government said it was not ready to proceed quickly to defend its rules, its regulations and its process. With all the resources and expertise at the disposal of the Ministry of Justice, it is incredibly hard to understand how the NDP government was not ready to defend the referendum it created on a faster timeline.
“British Columbians could be forgiven for thinking that the Government is playing politics on an issue that goes to the core of our democracy and that it is rigging the process to engineer the outcome that it desires,” stated Chris Gardner, President of the ICBA.
The ICBA continues to wait for the NDP government’s formal response to our legal challenge. When the government files its response, the hearing on ICBA’s legal challenge can proceed. Unfortunately, the delay means British Columbians will not have the benefit of a decision until shortly before the closing of the voting period for the referendum.
“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 reasonable timeline that allows for a robust debate.”
ICBA feels very strongly that the NDP government shouldn’t be allowed to present the public with very confusing questions rigged to promote a vote in favour of proportional representation and to prevent the public from getting the information it needs to make an informed decision.
The NDP government passed regulations establishing the referendum just a few weeks ago with no meaningful consultation with the public. “As we have said from the start, the question is confusing, the process is rushed, and there was very little consultation. If the NDP government needs more time to defend its own law and regulations, we think it is only fair and reasonable that the referendum be postponed.”
In its application for an injunction ICBA notes there are times when governments do not act in the broader public interest and when this occurs, the actions of government are rightly subject to review and, if necessary, correction by the courts. “The courts are there to protect the fundamental rights of citizens seeking relief from governments driven by partisan imperatives, rather than the public interest,” said Gardner.
The purpose of the ICBA’s legal challenge is to ensure that the referendum presents a clear question on proportional representation, that voters have the information they need to make an informed decision, and that the public is allowed a fair opportunity to participate in the referendum process.
“We will consider the decision and consider next steps,” said Gardner.