Seek court reference on electoral boundaries commission amendments

(Victoria, 6 January 2014) – IntegrityBC is calling on the provincial government to seek a constitutional reference from the B.C. Court of Appeal on its proposed amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.

The amendments would require that the Commission not reduce the number of ridings in three regions of the province (the North, Cariboo-Thompson and Columbia-Kootenay). The three regions account for 17 ridings or 20 per cent of the total number in the province.

The organization notes that the amendments may infringe on Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (right to vote).

“When a government starts tinkering with riding boundaries it needs to tread very carefully, which is why the B.C. government would be well-advised to seek a court reference given the scope of its amendments,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis.

In IntegrityBC’s opinion, the government’s White Paper on Amending the British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission Act fails to make the case that the act needs to be amended or that 17 out of 85 ridings need to be safeguarded.

“Geographical size in and of itself is somewhat of a red herring and insufficient justification for the extent of the government’s proposals,” said Travis. The ridings include two in Kamloops and two in Prince George.

At 196,000 square kilometres, Stitkine is the largest provincial riding in B.C. and smallest in terms of registered voters, but it’s less than two-thirds the size of B.C.’s largest federal riding and one-tenth the size of Canada’s largest riding.

“These amendments risk pitting regions against regions and that has the potential to create resentment among citizens, neither of which is healthy for a democracy.”

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For more information:

Dermod Travis, Executive Director

IntegrityBC

250-590-5126

info@integritybc.ca

 

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act White Paper details the proposed amendments and is available for public comment until Jan. 15, 2014. For more information and to download the government’s White Paper:

 

www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/ebca/index.htm