British Columbia recall and initiative referendum, 1991

British Columbia recall and initiative referendum, 1991

The British Columbia Recall and Initiative Referendum was a referendum held in British Columbia on October 17, 1991. It was concurrent with that year's general election. The referendum posed two questions. They were on whether elected officials should be able to be recalled and whether voters should be given a citizen's initiative. Both questions were decisively approved with over 80% of the electorate voting yes to both questions.

Lead up

British Columbia has had several referendums in its history.cite web|url=|title=Plebiscites and Referenda|publisher=Elections BC|accessdate=2008-01-25|work=Electoral History of British Columbia 1871-1986] A previous bill, the "Direct Legislation Act", was passed by the Oliver government in 1919. the "Direct Democracy Act" was given royal assent in March of that year, but was never proclaimed. Unfortunately for that law, a similar statute was struck down by the Manitoba Court of Appeals later that year. These combined to leave the BC law in legislative limbo until it was removed in a 1924 statute consolidation.cite web|url=|work=Canadian Parliamentary Review|author=Norman Ruff|title=Institutionalizing Populism in British Columbia|year=1993|accessdate=2008-01-25]

A promise to hold referendums was included in the Socred government's speech from the throne in April, 1990.cite web|url=|author=As spoken by The Honourable David Lam|title=Speech from the Throne|date=1990-04-05|publisher=Legislative Assembly of British Columbia Hansard|accessdate=2008-01-26] In preparation, the Socreds had invited two experts from California familiar with recall and initiative to their annual convention.cite news|title=B.C. voters to face two referendums; Government dragged feet, NDP claims|date=1991-09-06|author=Justine Hunter|page=H9|publisher=Vancouver Sun] Appropriate legislation was introduced on July 5, 1990.cite news|title=Plebiscite bill 'good democracy'|author=Don Hauka|date=1990-07-06|publisher=Vancouver Province|page=4]

The two questions were:

A: Should the voters be given the right, by legislation, to vote between elections for the removal of their member of the Legislative Assembly?cite web|month=March|year=2002|title=Electoral History of British Columbia Supplement, 1987-2001|url=|page=60|publisher=Elections BC|format=PDF]
B: Should the voters be given the right, by legislation, to propose questions that the Government of British Columbia must submit to voters by referendum?

Both of the questions were announced by Premier Rita Johnston during a news conference on September 5, 1991, although by then they were an open secret. NDP leader Mike Harcourt criticized the timing, saying that the Socreds had moved too slowly in launching the proposals. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson also criticized the referendum, saying that it was intended to divert attention away from the scandal-plagued Socreds.cite news|author=Ian Austin|title=Questions unveiled; Opposition says exercise is a smokescreen to divert attention|date=1991-09-06|page=6|publisher=Vancouver Province] In response, Johnston said she could not comment on either timing or structure for the proposals because they would be decided after the referendum.

The referendum was run by Attorney-General Russ Fraser. The total cost was 1.7 million dollars. The cost includes information pamphlets, advertising, toll-free information telephone lines, and costs related to running the referendum.

The referendum also got caught up in the campaign going on at the same time. Both Premier Johnston and NDP leader Harcourt announced that they would be voting yes in the referendum.


There was overwhelming support for both questions. Support was over 80% of yes votes for both questions.cite web|url=|title=Electoral History of British Columbia Supplement, 1987-2001|publisher=Elections BC|page=5|month=March|year=2002|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-01-26] However, more than nine percent of ballots for question A were rejected, and more than eleven percent were rejected for question B. Turnout was slightly less than that in the general election.

Question A: Recall

Question B: Initiative


British Columbia's legislation made a referendum binding only on the government that called it. As the Socreds had been defeated, the incoming NDP government was not required to enable recall and initiative. Nevertheless, Premier-elect Mike Harcourt announced that his government would be bound by the results.cite news|publisher=Vancouver Sun|date=1991-10-19|page=B9|author=Justine Hunter|title=Early referendum count shows B.C. voters want power to remove, rescind, recall] As a consequence, the "Recall and Initiative Act" was passed and entered into force on February 24, 1995.In 1998, MLA Paul Reitsma resigned his seat when it appeared that a recall petition would be successful and he could be the first person ever recalled under the legislation.

ee also

* Politics of British Columbia
* Referenda in Canada
* William Aberhart, the first politician in Canada ever to be subject to a recall campaign


External links

* [ Elections BC]

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