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ICBA to appeal Supreme Court denial of injunction against proportional representation referendum

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and the Canada West Construction Union have filed an appeal to last month’s B.C. Supreme Court decision denying the plaintiff’s application for an injunction to put a halt to the upcoming provincial referendum on proportional representation.

On August 28th, Justice Miriam Gropper turned down ICBA’s request for an injunction to pause the referendum process until the ICBA’s lawsuit against the provincial government’s referendum process could be decided in court.

The ICBA claims that the provincial 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,” said ICBA president Chris Gardner. “We prepared our challenge within a week, and they needed more than two months.”

The ICBA filed its lawsuit against the Province at the end of June, after Attorney General David Eby released the rules of the referendum. The injunction application was filed in late July, before the hearing began in early August.

“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.”

The says that its original suit against the government continues, and the Association is hopeful that the government will agree to a court date in the fall. Until then, the ICBA says that it is seeking the injunction to pause the referendum 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.

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.
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