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Iniitiative Petition in the works to cancel Site C dam

A view of some early work on the Site C dam

British Columbia’s Chief Electoral Officer, Keith Archer, has granted approval in principle on an initiative petition application. The petition will be issued to proponent Ion Delsol Moruso on July 3, 2018. The title of the initiative is: “An initiative to cancel the Site C Dam project”.

“This initiative petition application is the eleventh to be approved since the Recall and Initiative Act came into force in 1995”, says Archer. Only one of those eleven were successful in obtaining the required number of signatures within the 90-day period allowed – that one was the 2010 HST initiative petition.

Any registered voter can apply to have a petition issued to gather support for a legislative proposal. After the petition is issued, the proponent will have 90 days to canvass and collect signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters in each of British Columbia’s 87 electoral districts.

Individuals or organizations who intend to oppose the initiative, conduct initiative advertising, or canvass for signatures must be registered with Elections BC. The deadline to apply to be an opponent of the initiative is June 4, 2018.

Registered voters as of July 3, 2018 may sign the petition once, and only for the electoral district in which they are registered.

If these requirements are met, the Chief Electoral Officer must send a copy of the verified petition and draft Bill to a Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives.

The Select Standing Committee must meet within 30 days of receipt of the petition and draft Bill. From their first meeting, the Committee has 90 days to consider the legislative proposal and either table a report recommending introduction of the draft Bill, or refer the initiative to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote. Initiative votes are scheduled every three years. If required, the next initiative vote will be on September 26, 2020. Individuals and organizations may apply to be an opponent to an initiative vote within 30 days after the day on which notice of the vote is published in the Gazette.

For an initiative vote to be successful, the majority of registered voters in the province must vote in favour of the initiative and more than 50% of registered voters in at least two-thirds of the electoral districts in the province must vote in favour of the initiative. If successful, government must introduce the initiative Bill at the earliest practical opportunity.

Given the timelines above, it will be interesting to see whether this petition succeeds in getting enough signatures, and if it does that, in convincing enough MLAs that the dam should be cancelled. If the Legislature doesn’t need to consider the matter until September of 2020, this could end up being an exercise in expensive hindsight. 

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