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Citizens’ Assembly

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Why we might want it

British Columbia is making history by inviting citizens to shape our democratic process.

The Government of British Columbia has taken the unprecedented step of turning over a review of our electoral system to the people of this province. Not to politicians, not to "experts," but to an independent assembly of 160 British Columbians. 160 people randomly selected from the provincial voters list who have chosen to serve their province as members of the Citizens' Assembly.

Nowhere else in the world has this been done.

Furthermore, Citizens' Assembly members will not just review the current and alternate electoral systems. They will recommend the system that they believe will best serve the people of this province.

If the recommendation is for change, that recommendation will go directly to the people of B.C. British Columbia voters will have the final say in a referendum which would be held May 17, 2005 as part of the next provincial election.

The Citizens' Assembly really excited to be part of this ground-breaking initiative. This is a first, not just for B.C., but for all modern democratic countries. Never before have non-elected citizens been given such power over a major public policy decision.

Assembly members are working on behalf of all British Columbians, so your views are important. You can make your voice heard by participating in public hearings in May and June 2004, or by preparing a written submission for the Assembly to consider.

The Citizens' Assembly is a bold experiment in citizen-led public policy development; this really is power to the people. And our success depends on the interest and involvement of all British Columbians.

The Citizens’ Assembly was created by the Government of British Columbia with the unanimous support of the British Columbia Legislature. It is an independent, non-partisan assembly of randomly selected citizens who will meet to examine the province’s electoral system—that is, how our votes determine who gets elected to sit in the provincial legislature.

What are the activities of the Citizens' Assembly?

There will be three phases to the Citizens’ Assembly:
Learning: Members learn in January-March 2004 about our current electoral system and other electoral systems used around the world.
Public Hearings: There will be public hearings in May-June 2004 throughout the province, for members to hear what their fellow citizens have to say about electoral reform. The Assembly will also accept submissions from the public.
Deliberation: The Citizens’ Assembly will decide in September-November 2004 whether our current electoral system should be changed and, if so, make a recommendation for a new system.
The Citizens’ Assembly will report its recommendation to the people of British Columbia by December 2004. If the current electoral system is supported by the Citizens’ Assembly, that will bring the Assembly’s work to a close. If the Citizens’ Assembly suggests a change, its report will describe the pros and cons of both our current system and the recommended system, explaining why the new system is preferred. It will also draft the referendum question on this issue for the May 2005 provincial election. The Assembly will disband after handing in its final recommendation.

How is the Assembly funded?

The Citizens’ Assembly is a provincial government initiative and is funded through the Attorney General’s office. The established budget for the Assembly is $5.5 million. The Assembly operates independently of government, and is in control of its own budget.

Which political parties support the Citizens’Assembly?

The Citizens’ Assembly was created in May 2004 with the unanimous support of the Legislative Assembly in Victoria. All major parties and many smaller parties (which have no representation in the Legislature) support the Citizens’ Assembly.

How will you ensure the Citizens’ Assembly as a whole remains non-partisan?

Criteria for membership in the Assembly were created specifically to depoliticize the selection process and protect the Assembly from possible charges of bias.
Also, in the spirit of dialogue which shapes this process, members are asked to suspend judgment during the learning and public hearings phases.

How will the Assembly reach its decisions?

Members will be very involved in shaping the Citizens' Assembly decision-making process.
The intent of the Assembly is to listen to and respect all opinions, therefore a process like consensus may be used. If a consensus-based model does not work for the Assembly, the mandate provides for a simple majority vote.
 

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