Civil Liberties Group Condemns Provincial Electoral Boundaries Decision by Provincial Government

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The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is condemning the Liberal Government’s resolution today to adopt provincial electoral boundaries that will undermine constitutional principles of voter parity.

The Government’s resolution would permit 85 provincial ridings with 10 of them diverging more than 25% below the average population in a riding.

BCCLA President Jason Gratl: “If the government proceeds with this plan, the BCCLA will go to court to seek orders protecting constitutionally guaranteed voting rights of all British Columbians from this unconscionable attack on fundamental freedoms.”

Section 9(1) of the existing B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission Act provides that “the principle of representation by population be achieved”. Boundaries may diverge only up to 25% unless “very special circumstances” exist, a constitutional standard set by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission, the independent body set up to recommend electoral boundaries chaired by Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen, specifically rejected the Liberal Government’s approach because it found that “special circumstances” exist in only four ridings. As the Commission quoted from an Alberta Court of Appeal case on point: “No argument for effective representation of one group legitimizes under-representation of another group.”

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has stood firmly against erosion of equality of voting rights throughout its history. In the 1980’s, the BCCLA launched Dixon v. Attorney General of B.C., a case that affirmed the constitutional principle requiring effective parity of voting power.