1992 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 35th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows:
1 (1) Any registered voter may sponsor an initiative petition, requiring that a question or questions be put to voters by referendum.
(2) Every registered voter sponsoring an initiative petition under this Act shall appoint another person or successive persons qualified to act as sponsor, to act in case of death or incapacity, and such person then acting shall be deemed to be the sponsor.
2 Every initiative petition shall contain:
(1) The name, address, and occupation of the sponsor,
(2) The question or questions to be put,
(3) A statement of not more than 250 words outlining the basis for the petition,
(4) Adequate provision for the signatures, clearly legible names, addresses, occupations and phone numbers of registered voters,
(5) A statement that persons signing the petition, other than the sponsor, are not liable in defamation on the grounds of having signed it.
(6) A statement that the terms of the petition and the question or questions to be put that it contains may be amended, with the consent of the sponsor, following:
(a) legislative hearings,
(b) amalgamation with another initiative petition or petitions and another question or questions of similar intent,
(c) study of its financial impact, constitutional and legal consequences.
(7) The date upon which the petition was first circulated.
3 (1) No question shall exceed 50 words in length, and
(2) No initiative petition shall include more than 10 questions.
(3) Questions from more than one initiative petition may be put to referendum at the same initiative election.
4 (1) Upon presentation of an initiative petition apparently containing the signatures of not less than 10% of the registered voters in the province, the Chief Electoral Officer shall verify the same by such statistical method as he determines to be cost-effective and reliable.
(2) Upon determining that an initiative petition has met the requirements of this Act, the Chief Electoral Officer shall certify it to be qualified, and that the question or questions therein shall be put to referendum at the next date specified by this Act.
(3) The Chief Electoral Officer shall use his best efforts to qualify an initiative petition within 60 days of presentation or as soon thereafter as may be reasonably practical.
(4) Where, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, the initiative petition contains insufficient valid signatures of registered voters, the Chief Electoral Officer shall return it to its sponsor, and the initiative petition may not be resubmitted until a number of additional signatures have been added to it, as specified by the Chief Electoral Officer.
(5) For the purposes of this Act, the number of registered voters in the province shall be calculated as of the most recent provincial general election, but the signatures of persons who have been registered subsequently shall be valid for the purposes of qualifying an initiative petition, and any person who would be eligible to vote in a provincial general election or by-election held on that date, shall be eligible to vote in an initiative election.
5 No initiative petition may be presented for qualification later than 1 year after the date on which it was first circulated, but a new petition in the same or similar terms may be circulated thereafter.
6 Where a question to be put requires that any future amendment to its terms, in whole or in part, be by a majority greater than 50% plus one, either of ballots cast in a referendum, or votes of Members of the Legislative Assembly, or of both, that provision shall not be effective unless the question recieves the highest of any such majorities as it may require for future amendment of its terms, but its other provisions not dependent thereupon, shall be effective upon receiving the support of 50% plus one of valid votes cast with respect to each such provision.
7 (1) Subject to the same conditions set out in subsection (4), the Chief Electoral Officer may, at any time he deems convenient, invite the sponsors of any questions which he believes may share similar or substantially similar intentions, to amalgamate those questions to their mutual satisfaction.
(2) If so amalgamated prior to qualification, valid signatures collected for any of the questions so amalgamated shall be valid to qualify the question or questions resulting from that amalgamation.
(3) Each sponsor of a question which has been amalgamated shall be deemed to be a sponsor of each question resulting from that amalgamation.
(4) The Chief Electoral Officer may make such changes to procedures as he believes to be convenient to accomodate an initiative election on an amalgamated question or questions, except for changes that would:
(a) significantly reduce the amount of information provided to voters before they vote, or,
(b) delay the holding of an initiative election,
8 (1) Upon declaring an initiative petition to be qualified, the Chief Electoral Officer shall set a date not less than 6 months thereafter for the holding of an initiative election, and shall make all necessary preparations for it.
(2) Subject to subsection (1), the date set shall be the earliest date at which municipal elections are next to be held in at least 10 municipalities in the province, or, if at least three years have elapsed since the most recent provincial general election, the date of the next following provincial general election.
(3) Where, following the setting of an initiative election for a provincial general election, that election is called for a date less than 6 months after the initiative petition has been declared to be qualified, the date of the initiative election shall be reset for the next available municipal election date which meets the requirements of subsection (2), and all preparations then undertaken may be relied upon, completed or recommenced as the Chief Electoral Officer reasonably deems appropriate to the effective and neutral administration of this Act.
(4) Where an initiative election is held on the same date as municipal elections, the Chief Electoral Officer shall make appropriate provision to accomodate voters at the same polling places for both municipal and initiative elections, and in any dispute between the Chief Electoral Officer and a municipal official, the ruling of the Chief Electoral Officer shall prevail.
9 No action in defamation arising in connection with an initiative petition, campaign or election shall be heard until the initiative election has been held or cancelled.
10 (1) Within 60 days of a declaration that an initiative petition is qualified, hearings of a select or standing committee of the Legislative Assembly shall commence with respect to its provisions.
(2) The committee shall require the opinion of Legislative Counsel with respect to the wording which would best accomplish the objectives of the sponsor, and the legal and constitutional considerations implicit in its adoption and implementation, including, but not limited to, the jurisdiction of the province over the subject matter of the initiative petition, and any possible conflicts between its terms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
(3) The committee shall require the contents to be analysed by the Ministry of Finance, or such other competent body as it may unanimously appoint for the purpose of fairly estimating the cost of implementation of each of the major and distinct provisions thereof.
(4) The committee shall provide reasonable and balanced opportunities for supporters and opponents of the initiative petition to testify and to provide expert witnesses, and shall, to the extent feasible, provide for the televising of the hearings.
(5) Following its hearings the committee may recommend such amendments to the initiative petition as it sees fit, and the sponsor may adopt them, in whole or in part, and file a petition so revised with the Chief Electoral Officer.
(6) The committee may, in addition, file a report with the Chief Electoral Officer, in support of, or in opposition to, any of the provisions of the initiative petition.
(7) Any member of the committee not in agreement with all, or a portion of, the commitee's report, may file a separate report with the Chief Electoral Officer.
(8) The Chief Electoral Officer shall advise the committee and the sponsor, not later than the first day of the committee hearings with respect to the initiative petition of the last practical dates for amending or filing reports and other materials under this section for the effective conduct of the initiative election, and the committee and other interested persons shall act in good faith to expedite the same.
(9) Reports filed under subsections (6) and (7) shall not exceed 500 words.
(10) A revised petition filed under subsection (5) may contain amendments recommended in a report filed under subsection (7).
11 (1) Within 30 days after the completion of filings under section 10, or, at the next day's sitting of the Legislative Assembly, if the Legislative Assembly is not then in session, a resolution shall be put by the Government House Leader to the Legislative Assembly separately supporting or opposing each question to be put pursuant to the initiative petition as amended.
(2) Within 14 days after the resolution referred to in subsection
(1) has been put, the votes of each member shall be separately taken and published with respect to each question, and the results thereof filed with the Chief Electoral Officer on the next working day of his office.
12 (1) Within 30 days of receiving all filings under sections 10 and 11, the Chief Electoral Officer shall prepare an information circular containing:
(a) the contents of the initiative petition as amended, except for the qualifying signatures and material related thereto,
(b) all materials duly filed under sections 10 and 11,
(c) such rebuttal material to reports filed under section 10 as he deems equivalent and appropriate,
(d) a statement by the sponsor, not exceeding 500 words, and,
(e) a statement by an opponent, not exceeding 500 words.
(2) Where an initiative petition contains more than one question, the maximum length of statements in support or in opposition shall be 500 words per question.
(3) Where more than one opponent provides statements for inclusion in an information circular with respect to one or more questions to be put by referendum, the Chief Electoral Officer shall include the first statement received which is of suitable length, or, with the approval of the opponent first submitting a statement of suitable length, a joint statement of suitable length, by two or more opponents.
(4) The Chief Electoral Officer may refuse to accept any statement which he considers may not have been made in good faith or which is frivilous or vexatious.
(5) The Chief Electoral Officer shall cause a copy of the information circular to be mailed to every registered voter in the province not less than 14 days before the date set for the initiative election, and shall cause a copy thereof to be posted or available at every polling place throughout voting hours, but the failure of delivery of the information circular to one or more registered voters or to one or more polling places shall not invalidate an initiative election where there has been substantial compliance province-wide.
13 (1) Information circulars shall be legible, of at least 12 point type, and neutral in format.
(2) Information circulars may include graphs, charts, and other pictorial or visually depictive or illustrative matter, but equal space for such graphic material must be made available to the sponsor and opponents alike, of not more than one full single side standard letter size page per statement per question.
14 No person shall be liable in defamation for any of the contents of an information circular, or for the publication, broadcast, or distribution or posting thereof, except for the person composing the same, but this provision does not effect the liability of any person for those contents in any form or medium other than an information circular authorized under this Act.
15 (1) 14 working days prior to the initiative election, every person who has spent, or who intends to spend, alone, or with others, an amount or amounts which together do or would equal or exceed $1,000 in support of or in opposition to a question in an initative election, shall file a full disclosure statement, including:
(a) The question or questions in respect of which the funds were spent, being spent, or intended to be spent, listing the respective amounts,
(b) The position taken on each question in respect of which the funds were spent, being spent or intended to be spent,
(c) The true identity of the person or persons with whom the respective amounts originated, with respect to each question.
(2) Where any amount referred to in this section originated with a corporation, trade union, or society, it shall be sufficient to disclose its identity, together with a list of its officers and directors holding office at any time when the funds were authorized to be spent or provided to be spent.
(3) The Chief Electoral Officer shall make copies of the full disclosure statements available immediately to the press and public in reasonable quantities, and shall provide copies to be posted at each polling place during voting hours, but the failure of one or more persons or polling places to receive a copy or copies of full disclosure statements shall not invalidate an initiative election provided that there has been substantial compliance province-wide.
16 (1) Not less than 14 working days before an initiative election, the sponsor of a question or questions may request that the question or questions be voided, in whole or in part, on account of substantial attainment of the objectives specified therein.
(2) A request under subsection (1) shall be made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which shall grant an order in such terms as it deems advisable, where it is of the opinion that:
(a) The applicant's request is made voluntarily and in good faith, without fear or enducement, and,
(b) The applicant's belief that the substantial attainment of the objectives referred to is reasonable under the circumstances, and,
(c) that no other ground of public policy exists sufficient to deny the application, or a part thereof.
(3) An application under subsection (2) shall not be heard until 10 days following the notification of the Chief Electoral Officer and two media outlets of general circulation or broadcast in the province, and any person having signed the initiative petition shall have standing to oppose the application, in whole or in part, but the Court shall not be required to hear more than three such persons in opposition to the application.
(4) The decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia on an application under this section shall be final.
(5) Where an application under this section is with respect to a provision or provisions of a question or questions relating in whole or in part to any court, the application shall be made to the Chief Electoral Officer who shall deal with the application as if he were the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and his decision in the matter shall be final.
17 Subject to this Act, the Chief Electoral Officer shall enact such rules as he reasonably deems expedient for the effective, neutral, and timely conduct of initiative elections, including, but not limited to, the application or variation of relevant sections of the Election Act R.S.B.C. 1979 Chapter 103.
18 The ballot for an initiative election shall list each of the questions to be put by referendum, in at least 12 point type, each followed by two equally prominent "YES and "NO" captioned squares opposite each question, on the same line.
19 Where the Chief Electoral Officer determines that a majority of the valid votes cast in an initiative election on a particular question were "YES" votes, he shall so certify to its sponsor, and to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and shall notify each of the provisions of sections 21, 22, and 23 of this Act.
20 (1) Upon receipt of a certification under section 19, the sponsor shall form an implementation committee, consisting of 5 individuals, and 5 alternates appointed by him, and 4 Members of the Legislative Assembly and 4 alternates, appointed by the Legislative Assembly.
(2) Where available and willing to serve, the Members of the Legislative Assembly and their alternates, shall be individuals who publicly and continuously supported the question to be implemented, and, in so far as is practical, all political parties or interests represented in the Legislative Assembly shall be represented among the Members and among the alternates appointed by the Legislative Assembly to serve on each implementation committee.
(3) Where the Legislative Assembly has failed to appoint Members and alternates within 90 days of a certification under section 19, the sponsor may appoint up to 4 Members of the Legislative Assembly and up to 4 alternates to so serve, and, whether or not such individuals are so appointed, the implementation committee shall thereafter be deemed to be duly constituted upon the sponsor's certification to that effect to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and to the Chief Electoral Officer.
(4) Alternates to Members of the Legislative Assembly shall be Members of the Legislative Assembly.
(5) Where more than one question, put by the same sponsor, receives the required majority, all such questions may be dealt with by the same implementation committee.
(6) Where one or more individuals cease to be Members of the Legislative Assembly while serving as members or alternates on an implementation committee, the work of the committee may proceed, and that individual or those individuals shall be replaced, as soon as is reasonably convenient, by the Legislative Assembly at its next sitting, in the same manner as appointment is provided for in this section, and subject to subsection (3).
21 An implementation commitee shall have all of the powers of a Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly, in addition to all of the powers of a commissioner appointed under the Inquiry Act, R.S.B.C. Chapter 198.
22 Following not less than 14 days of deliberations, and not later than 6 months after its first day of deliberations, an implementation committee shall file, by majority vote, with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, its report, specifying those legislative enactments which it determines are required for the most effective implementation of the question or questions it dealt with, having regard to the public interest and all of the likely consequences of implementation.
23 (1) Where, within one year of the filing of a report under section 23, the Legislative Assembly has failed to enact the recommendations of an implementation committee, the implementation committee may, by majority vote, notify the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of its objection to such non-compliance, which objection shall be read to the Legislative Assembly by the Speaker on the day of sitting on which it is received.
(2) Notwithstanding the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly, or the provisions of any statute or law whatsoever, upon reading of a notice of objection to non-compliance under subsection (1), the Legislative Assembly shall enact the recommendations of the implementation committee forthwith, and shall not conduct any other business until the completion of the same.
24 (1) Where, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer or the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, conflicting provisions have been certified to have received a "YES" majority of valid votes cast in an initiative election, or with respect to a question adopted in a previous initiative election, upon 30 days prior notice to the sponsors of the questions whose provisions are thought to conflict, either may refer that opinion to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for confirmation.
(2) The sponsor or sponsors of any question a provision or provisions of which are alleged to conflict, has standing to appear on a reference under this section, for the purpose of establishing that such provision or provisions do not conflict, or that any potential conflict could be satisfactorily resolved by an implementation committee, or by a conference of implementation committees.
(3) Where the Court is satisfied on a reference under this section, that provisions of questions which received a "YES" majority of valid votes cast in an initiative election so conflict that such conflict could not be satisfactorily resolved by an implementation committee, or conference of implementation committees, the Court shall declare valid that provision or those provisions which received more "YES" votes than a conflicting provision on the same topic in that initiative election, or which passed subsequently, to the exclusion of the conflicting provision or provisions.
(4) Nothing in this section permits the Court to declare void, repealed, or replaced, any provision of a question not declared to be excluded under subsection (3).
(5) Where the Court finds that potential conflict between provisions referred to it under this section could be resolved by an implementation committee, or conference of implementation committees, it shall make such order as it deems most appropriate to carry out the intentions of the public, having regard to the preference for subsequent expressions of intent by voters, and for higher majorities of votes cast.
(6) An appeal from a declaration or order under this section lies to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, whose determination of the matter is final.
25 (1) Where the majority of valid votes cast on a question in an initiative election are "NO" votes, or, in the case of a tie, the question is defeated, and the same, or a substantially similar question may not be accepted for qualification under section 4, for a period of 2 years following the date of the initiative election.
(2) An appeal from a refusal to accept under subsection (1) lies to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, whose determination of the matter shall be final.
(3) Nothing in this section shall authorize the refusal of a question or questions for qualification under section 4, which is not within the scope of subsection (1), contained in an initiative petition which is otherwise valid.
26 (1) Violations of this Act, or rules made under it by the Chief Electoral Officer, are punishable on summary conviction, under the terms of the Offence Act, R.S.B.C. 1979 Chapter 305.
(2) Maximum penalties shall be as prescribed by regulation.
1 This Bill provides enabling legislation for the initiative process which was endorsed by 1,095,100 British Columbia voters, representing 83.02 percent of valid votes cast, as QUESTION B in the referendum held October 17, 1991:
"Should voters be given the right, by legislation, to propose questions that the government of British Columbia must submit to voters by referendum?"
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