VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and Canada West Construction Union yesterday filed leave to appeal a BC Supreme Court decision against an injunction to pause the proportional representation referendum process.
On August 28th, Justice Miriam Gropper turned down ICBA’s request for an injunction to pause the referendum process until the legality of the process could be confirmed in court.
The NDP Government has been dragging its heels on defending its referendum process, taking over two months to file a response to ICBA’s challenge. “The NDP Government talks a lot about democracy and having a fair debate, but they have shown no willingness to respond in a reasonable fashion – it’s their rules, it’s their process and it’s their referendum – they need to show up. We prepared our challenge within a week, and they needed more than two months,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA.
ICBA first filed its concerns with the process in early July, as soon as Attorney General David Eby released the rules. “As we have said from the start, the referendum question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation,” said Gardner. “Given that the NDP government needs so much time to defend its own law and regulations, we think the only fair and reasonable course is for the referendum to be postponed.”
ICBA’s original case against the NDP government continues on and ICBA is hopeful that the government will agree to a court date in the fall. But until then, ICBA is seeking an injunction because the government is attempting to “run out the clock” and leave the courts with little practical remedy should the ICBA prevail in court, because the referendum will already be over.
“We know the NDP Government would rather the whole proportional representation referendum proceed with little scrutiny or debate, but we believe that British Columbians deserve better than this and our democracy deserves better than this,” said Gardner. “If the NDP wants to hold a referendum, then its incumbent upon them to be fair – why not take the same approach as the former government in 2005 and 2009?”
“Changing how we elect our government requires a fair and open process with a clear question and a timeline that will allow for a robust debate. It neither fair nor democratic for the NDP Government to effectively rig the question and the process to provoke the result it wants.”
The ICBA is arguing in court that the referendum question and process is fundamentally flawed:
- 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 or not to implement a well-defined and comprehensible new voting system”;
- A binding referendum must be supported “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;
- 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”; and,
- The regulations unlawfully restrict freedom of expression on matters of public interest.