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Initiative FAQs

Please see the main Initiative page for general information about initiative petitions, essential steps in the initiative process and necessary forms and guides.


+ How do I apply for an initiative petition?

An applicant must submit the following to Elections BC:

  • a signed Application for Initiative Petition form
  • a legislative proposal in the form of a draft Bill that is within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislature
  • a completed Appointment of Financial Agent form or a statement that they are acting as their own financial agent
  • a non-refundable $50 processing fee, payable to the Minister of Finance, in the form of cash, certified cheque, bank draft, money order, or traveller’s cheque

+ Can a group or an organization begin an initiative petition?

No. Only an individual who is a registered voter can apply to have a petition issued.

+ Can there be multiple initiatives at one time?

Yes. Each initiative petition is treated independently, however the proposal must not be the same as, or substantially similar to, the topic of an initiative petition currently in process or under review.

+ Can a proponent be changed during the initiative period?

No. If at any point before the petition sheets are returned an initiative proponent is unable to continue with the petition, the proponent must advise Elections BC.

All materials provided by Elections BC must be returned, at which time the initiative period will end. If there is interest in continuing, a new proponent must begin a new petition.

+ Who will have access to the voters list?

Neither the proponent nor any opponents will not be provided with a copy of the voters list. Voter’s lists, by law, are only provided for electoral purposes. An initiative petition is not considered an “electoral event”.

+ Who can collect signatures on an initiative petition?

The proponent may be helped by volunteers to gather signatures. The volunteers are called “canvassers”, and must register as canvassers with Elections BC. Elections BC issues identification cards to canvassers, who must carry the card with them when canvassing. The proponent must approve of all canvasser applications. Signatures collected by unregistered canvassers will be disqualified during the petition verification process. Proponents may not pay anyone to collect signatures on an initiative petition.

+ How do I become a canvasser?

Completed initiative petition canvasser applications must be submitted to the proponent, who is responsible for registering canvassers with Elections BC. The proponent will be notified by Elections BC once the approved canvassers have been registered.

+ Who can register as a canvasser?

Canvassers must be registered voters. Voter qualifications are:

  • are a Canadian citizen,
  • are at least 18 years old, and
  • have lived in B.C. for the past six months

+ I was not a registered voter when the petition was issued. Can I still canvass?

Yes – but only if you register before the date you begin canvassing. In order to canvass, you must register to vote and you must also register as a canvasser with Elections BC. If you complete the canvasser registration form accurately and in full, Elections BC will register you as a voter in conjunction with your canvasser registration. Canvassers who register to vote after the petition is issued are not eligible to sign the petition but they can still canvass.

+ Can I sign and witness my own signature on a petition sheet?

No. You can only sign a petition sheet administered by another canvasser in your electoral district.

+ If I am the proponent, do I need to register as a canvasser?

Yes. The proponent must register as a canvasser.

+ Can canvassers canvass for more than one initiative petition?

Yes. A separate canvasser application must be completed for each initiative petition.

+ Can canvassers demand access to apartment buildings or strata properties to collect signatures?

No. Unlike candidates in elections who have legislated access for campaigning purposes, canvassers are not guaranteed access to rental or strata properties. Access may be granted at the discretion of the landlord or property owner.

+ Can canvassers demand access to malls and recreation centres, etc., to collect signatures?

No. The Recall and Initiative Act does not require a landlord or owner to provide access to canvassers. Permission must be obtained from the property owner or manager.

+ As a canvasser, will my personal information be made public?

Canvasser registration forms will be made available for public inspection at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. The registered canvasser name, residential address, signature and phone number of the canvasser will be displayed on the form, however a canvasser can instruct that their residential address and phone number be obscured from public inspection by checking the box next to their signature on the form.

The names and canvasser ID numbers of all registered canvassers will be listed on the Elections BC website.

+ How does Elections BC handle complaints about the behaviour of canvassers?

Complaints relating to the conduct of canvassers are reviewed by Elections BC. If a complaint is found to be valid, the proponent is advised to correct the conduct of their canvassers.

Canvassers must ensure that they abide by the legislation and regulations with respect to canvassing.

+ What happens if a canvasser no longer wishes to collect signatures?

The canvasser should immediately submit all petition sheets to the proponent along with their Canvasser ID badge.

+ Does a registered canvasser check every signee’s photo identification?

There is no provision in the Act for canvassers to check ID of voters/signers.

+ How many pieces of ID do petition signers need to provide?

None, however when voters sign the petition, they are making a declaration that they are qualified to do so.

+ Can I pay my canvassers or provide them with lunch, coffee, goods or services?

No. Canvassers are volunteers, providing them with lunch, coffee or any other benefit could be considered an inducement and is not permitted.

+ Are Canvassers representative of Elections BC?

No, canvassers are the responsibility of the proponent. They do not work for Elections BC and should not represent themselves as such. Each canvasser must show a canvasser card prepared by Elections BC to voters wishing to sign the petition, if requested to do so.

+ Do I need to be registered as a voter to sign the petition?

Yes, you need to be registered as a voter as of the date the petition is issued.

+ When the petition was issued I was not a registered voter, can I sign the petition?

No, only individuals who were registered as a voter at the time the petition was issued are eligible to sign the petition.

+ If I sign a petition, will my personal information be made public?

The Recall and Initiative Act requires that petition sheets be made available for public inspection for one year from the time they are filed or submitted. Voters who sign the petition may request that their residential address and phone number be obscured from public inspection by checking the box next to their signature on the petition.

Individuals who request to view copies of initiative petition sheets are required to sign a declaration stating that the personal information viewed will not be used except as permitted under the Recall and Initiative Act and the Election Act. Section 163(2) of the Recall and Initiative Act provides for penalties of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years for the misuse of personal information.

Elections BC has the authority to collect, use, disclose and dispose of personal information under the Recall and Initiative Act. This information is used to administer initiative petitions as required by the legislation.

For information about Elections BC’s privacy policies visit our Privacy page.

+ I’ve signed the petition but have changed my mind – can I have my name removed?

Canvassers or Elections BC cannot remove signatures from a petition. If asked, a proponent may agree to remove a signature from a petition before it is submitted, but proponents are not required to do so.

+ What information do I have to provide when I sign an initiative petition?

Every signature on an initiative petition must be accompanied by the residential address of the individual who signed. Postal addresses, such as PO Box numbers, are not acceptable. Signatures not accompanied by a residential address will not be counted. You will also be asked to provide a phone number.

+ Why am I asked to provide my phone number when I sign the petition?

Although providing your phone number is voluntary, it is important to the initiative process. You may be called by Elections BC to confirm that you signed the petition, or the proponent may need to contact you to ensure your information is correct.

+ My street has two names, which should I use?

You should use the street name you normally use. Elections BC maintains a list of common alternate street names. If you are concerned that Elections BC may not be aware of alternate names for your street, please contact Elections BC.

+ I haven’t moved, but local authorities have changed the name of my street (or given us a house number). I’ve signed the petition with the new address information. Will my signature still be counted?

Your signature will be counted if you contact Elections BC to update your voter registration before the petition is submitted for verification.

+ I’m registered, but I’ve moved (or changed my name) since the petition was issued. Is that okay?

Yes. Be sure to update your voter registration with Elections BC before the petition is submitted for verification.

+ If an individual has changed their residential address and signs the petition with their new address, but their previous address appears on the provincial voters list, how do they ensure that their signature is counted?

Before the petition is submitted to Elections BC, the voter must update their registration. That can be done online, by phoning Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683, by downloading, scanning and emailing, faxing or mailing an update form to Elections BC, or by visiting the Elections BC office or any Service BC Government Agent location.

+ When and where can I sign the petition?

For information about where to sign, contact the proponent of the petition.

+ Can I sign on the Internet?

No. There are no official initiative petitions online. Initiative petitions must be signed by registered voters, in ink, on official paper petition sheets. Signatures collected in any other way are not accepted.

+ Can I sign more than once?

No, it is an offence under the Recall and Initiative Act to sign an initiative petition more than once.

+ What if I am physically unable to sign the petition?

A registered voter may get assistance to complete the information on a petition sheet. The Canvasser and the person providing the assistance must complete form 939 – Physically Unable to Sign Petition.

+ Who is responsible to determine if a voter is eligible to sign a petition?

A voter is responsible to know if they are eligible to sign a petition. A voter who is uncertain about their eligibility should contact Elections BC.

+ How does Elections BC check to see if I signed a petition?

Petition lines are first compared to the provincial voters list to ensure that the names and residential addresses on the petition match. A random sample of individuals who signed a petition is then contacted to confirm that they signed the petition.

+ What if my signature is unreadable – can I cross it out and sign below?

Yes, if there is a mistake you can cross out your name, address and use a new row below.

+ Will my signature be disqualified if any part of it goes outside the signature box?

No, signatures extending outside the signature box will be counted and considered for verification.

+ What is Initiative advertising?

Any material used during an initiative petition or initiative vote period to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the initiative or draft Bill. This includes, but is not limited to, leaflets, lawn signs, billboards, brochures, buttons, badges, newspapers, radio, television, websites, newsletters and public address systems.

+ When can I register as an initiative advertising sponsor?

Registration applications can be submitted any time during an initiative petition or initiative vote period.

+ Can I place advertising in my local paper/TV supporting or opposing the initiative?

Yes, although you must register as an initiative advertising sponsor with Elections BC before doing any advertising. All advertisements must display the authorization statement.

+ Can I place supporting or opposing notices on my store/business website?

Yes, although you must register as an initiative advertising sponsor with Elections BC before doing any advertising. All notices must display the authorization statement.

+ Can I put up signs supporting or opposing the initiative petition in my home or business?

Yes. If you support or oppose the initiative and have received signs from the proponent or opponent or a registered initiative advertising sponsor, you can display the signs. If you want to make your own signs supporting or opposing the initiative, you must register as an initiative advertising sponsor with Elections BC.

All signs supporting the initiative must have the authorization statement of a registered initiative advertising sponsor or the financial agent of the proponent or opponent. All signs opposing the initiative must have the authorization statement of a registered initiative advertising sponsor or the financial agent.

+ Are there any spending limits on initiative advertising?

Yes. Other than proponents and opponents, sponsors of initiative advertising must register with Elections BC. All initiative advertising must identify the sponsor. Registered advertising sponsors must not sponsor advertising with a value of more than $5,000 in relation to an initiative petition or initiative vote. For more information regarding initiative petition advertising, please refer to the Guide to Initiative Communications.

+ Can a proponent submit financial agent or assistant financial agent appointment forms before the initiative petition application has been submitted?

No. However, individuals who will be a financial agent or assistant financial agent should complete and sign the appointment form before they start receiving contributions.

The appointment forms should be sent in for processing with the application for an initiative petition.

+ Can a proponent accept initiative contributions prior to the initiative petition period?

Yes. The definition of an initiative proponent in Section 1 of the Recall and Initiative Act includes an individual who intends to become a proponent. The proponent acts as their own financial agent until such time as another individual is appointed and may accept initiative contributions prior to the initiative period. The financial agent or any assistant financial agent may accept contributions before an initiative application has been made.

+ Who can accept contributions? Who can incur initiative expenses?

Only the registered financial agent or an assistant financial agent for either the proponent or the opponent is authorized to collect contributions and incur initiative expenses.

+ How much can the proponent and opponent spend during an initiative petition or vote period?

There are equal spending limits for both the proponent and opponents. The limits are based on the number of registered voters in British Columbia.Elections BC calculates the initiative expenses limits, which are published in the BC Gazette and communicated to the proponent and the opponents.

+ Who can make a contribution to support or oppose the initiative?

Any individual can make a donation, but it must be given to the financial agent or an assistant financial agent registered with the proponent or the opponent. Charitable organizations must not make initiative contributions.

For more information about acceptable contributions, refer to the Guide to the Initiative Process or the Recall and Initiative Act. Initiative contributions are not eligible for income tax receipts.

+ How must the petition be submitted?

The proponent can submit the petition to the Chief Electoral Officer by mail, courier or in person, but must meet the following rules:

  • Submit all petition sheets at one time. No late submissions or partial submissions will be accepted.
  • Submit only the original signed petition sheets. Photocopies and faxes of signed petition sheets will not be counted.
  • Submit all of the original signed petition sheets, regardless of whether some signatures may be invalid or insufficient signatures have been collected.

+ What happens if a petition is submitted early?

The verification period begins as soon as a petition is submitted. If a proponent submits a petition before the end of the 60 day canvassing period, they cannot continue to collect and submit signatures.

+ How does the verification process work?

The Chief Electoral Officer has 42 days to complete the three-phase verification process:

  • The first stage is a preliminary count of the petition sheets to confirm whether enough signatures have been obtained.
  • The second stage ensures that the people who signed the petition were entitled to do so and that signatures were gathered by authorized canvassers.
  • The third stage involves contacting a random sample of voters who signed the petition to ensure the validity of their signatures and to obtain a reliable estimate of the rate at which signatories confirm they signed the petition.

Incomplete or invalid signatures are screened out and are not included in the final count. If it becomes clear during any phase of verification that the count will not meet the 40% threshold, no further verification is done.

+ What happens if a general election is called during the verification period?

If a general election is called during the 42-day verification period, the Chief Electoral Officer must verify the petition as soon as possible after the return of the writs for the general election.

+ How are duplicate signatures dealt with?

Signing an initiative petition more than once is specifically prohibited by law with penalties (on conviction) of a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of up to two years or both. Depending on the circumstances, Elections BC may move to investigate instances of multiple signing.

+ Does the proponent or opponent have any role in verification?

There is no provision in the Recall and Initiative Act for observers or scrutineers. However, Elections BC allows both the proponent and opponents to have two observers present during verification to ensure transparency of the process.

+ Is an initiative petition the same as a referendum or initiative vote?

No. If an initiative petition is submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer with enough valid signatures and the proponent has complied with the financing rules, it is referred to a Select Standing Committee of the Legislature, which may choose to have an initiative vote held on the topic of the initiative petition. An initiative vote, if required, is held every three years in September. The next possible date for an initiative vote is September 30, 2017. The rules for an initiative vote are different from the rules for a referendum, and they are conducted under different legislation.

+ What is the difference between an initiative vote and a referendum?

An initiative vote is a province-wide vote on a new law or changes to an existing law, proposed by a registered voter. A referendum is a province-wide vote on a question that government asks of citizens. Initiative votes are administered under the Recall and Initiative Act. Referenda are administered under the Referendum Act.

+ Will an initiative petition result in a referendum?

No, if an initiative petition is successful, it will be sent to the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives to determine whether a new law or changes to an existing law should be introduced in the House or put to a province-wide initiative vote.

+ Can the proponent make a master PDF of the canvasser registration sheet with their signature to distribute to prospective canvassers? Can the proponent use my electronic signature on canvasser registration forms?

No. The intent of the canvasser applications being signed by the proponent is that it is the proponent’s responsibility to ensure he is aware of who his canvassers are and for the proponent to exercise control over the canvassers. It is also to protect the proponent from “rogue” canvassers who register but don’t actually support the campaign.

+ How many signature lines are allowable on a petition sheet? Is that prescribed?

Each petition sheet contains 10 rows for signatures. The petition sheet is a regulated form and must not be changed or altered in any way. A petition sheet may be submitted with less than 10 complete rows.

+ Is there anything in the Act prohibiting proponents from distributing electronic copies of the petition to one or more electoral districts within the province?

There is nothing in the Act preventing the proponent from distributing the petition and cover sheet electronically. At petition issuance, Election BC will send the cover sheet and petition sheets in paper and in pdf format for each electoral district. The print form of the pdf however must be exactly like the paper master when printed, e.g. image size, orientation, not crooked on the page, margins as per specifications, etc. Printing specifications will be issued. Elections BC will only issue the paper masters and pdf to the proponent.

+ How is a petition submitted to Elections BC?

Original petition sheets must be submitted all at the same time (cannot submit sheets by electoral district as they are completed). Petition sheets must be submitted in electoral district groupings along with the summary sheet detailing the number of sheets and signatures submitted.

+ Do all petition sheets have to be submitted even if some of the signatures may be invalid?

Yes, all of the petition sheets must be submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer within 90 days of the date on which the petition was issued.

+ Can petition sheets be submitted earlier than the deadline?

Yes, but early submission will immediately end the canvassing period and the 42 calendar day verification period will begin.