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October 6, 2009

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Electoral reform needs broader consultation: CUPE

BURNABY— Premier Gordon Campbell’s announcement of a new task force on electoral reform in B.C. is a good idea—but the panel of politicians he’s proposing reflects too narrow a range of interests, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“We certainly agree that local government election law needs to be reformed,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, “but for the kind of changes the premier is proposing, any task force should truly represent all major stakeholders in our communities.”

O’Neill added: “I am not sure that this is a top priority for local politicians, so I hope it’s not another attempt by the premier to take away yet more power from locally-elected officials and transfer it to the Province.”

During his closing day address at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention last week, Premier Campbell announced that the provincial government would establish a panel to propose new rules for local elections across B.C. The panel will be co-chaired by new UBCM president Harry Nyce, Community Development Minister Bill Bennett, and two additional UBCM representatives as well as two MLAs.

O’Neill said this composition is too narrow in its perspective.

“If the premier is serious about increasing voter turnout, and making local elections more relevant, then he should appoint B.C.’s chief electoral officer to the task force—plus a citizen’s panel, as was done for the recent provincial electoral reform process.”

O’Neill also gave a thumbs-down to Premier Campbell’s suggestion that it might be time to restore voting rights for industrial and business property owners.

“Corporations don’t vote in provincial or federal elections, so why should they vote in municipal elections?” he asked. “Democracy is one person, one vote. Restoring the corporate vote would be a giant step backward for democracy.”

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