Guide to Initiative Petition Canvassing

Elections BC has prepared this guide to help individuals understand the rules for initiative petition canvassing under the Recall and Initiative Act. Where there is inconsistency between this guide and the Recall and Initiative Act, the Act will prevail.

Initiative proponents and opponents may also wish to consult our Guide to the Initiative Process, Guide to Initiative Financing (available soon) and Guide to Initiative Communications.

Guide to Initiative Petition Canvassing

General Information

About the initiative process in B.C.

Initiative is a process that allows registered voters to propose new laws or change existing laws.

Any voter registered with Elections BC can apply to have a petition issued to gather support for a legislative proposal (in the form of a draft Bill). A legislative proposal can be regarding any matter within the jurisdiction of the Legislature of British Columbia.

To begin an initiative petition, the voter must submit a completed application form to the Chief Electoral Officer with a processing fee of $50 and a copy of the proposed law in the form of a draft Bill.

If the application meets the legislative requirements, the CEO approves the initiative petition in principle and the petition is issued to the applicant (called a “proponent”) 60 days later. The proponent then has 90 days to collect signatures of 10% of the registered voters in each electoral district. The proponent may be helped by volunteers when canvassing for signatures.

When all the signed petition sheets are submitted, the Chief Electoral Officer has 42 days to verify that enough valid signatures have been collected. If the verification process shows that sufficient signatures have been collected and the financing requirements have been met by the proponent, the Chief Electoral Officer sends a copy of the petition and draft Bill to a Select Standing Committee of the Legislature.

The Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives must meet within 30 days of receiving the initiative petition. The Select Standing Committee has 90 days to consider the legislative proposal. The Committee must either table a report recommending introduction of the draft Bill or refer the initiative petition and draft Bill to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote.

If an initiative petition has met the signature threshold and financing requirements, and has been referred to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote by the Select Standing Committee, the vote must be conducted on a fixed schedule according to the Recall and Initiative Act. If no initiatives have been referred to the Chief Electoral Officer, then no vote will be held. If an initiative vote is required, a vote will be held on September 30, 2023, and on the last Saturday of September in every third year after that date.

If more than 50% of the total number of registered voters in the province vote in favour of an initiative, and more than 50% of the total number of registered voters in each of at least 2/3 of the electoral districts in the province vote in favour of an initiative, the Chief Electoral Officer must declare the initiative vote to be successful and the government must introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity.

After a Bill is introduced into the legislature, the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act have been satisfied, and any subsequent reading, amendment, or passage of the Bill will proceed as with any other Bill, with no guarantee of passage.


Who may canvass for signatures

Canvassers must be registered voters in B.C.

To register to vote, you must be:

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

To become a canvasser, contact the proponent of the initiative petition. The proponent will coordinate recruitment of volunteers, manage the canvasser application process and forward canvasser applications to Elections BC.

All canvassers must be approved by Elections BC prior to collecting signatures.

To be approved by Elections BC, send a completed Initiative Petition Application for Canvasser Registration (911) to the proponent. The proponent must sign and submit the form. Elections BC will check that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria and, if so, register the applicant as a canvasser. Following the registration, Elections BC will issue a Canvasser ID card to the proponent. The proponent is responsible for distributing the Canvasser ID cards to the canvassers and the canvassers must sign their card. Canvassers may only canvass after the effective date on the canvasser ID card and within the canvassing period.

Signatures gathered by unregistered canvassers will not accepted during the initiative verification process.

[Recall and Initiative Act, s. 6]

Who may sign an initiative petition

To be eligible to sign the petition:

  • an individual must be a registered voter in British Columbia on the date the initiative petition is issued, and
  • the individual must sign the petition sheet for the electoral district in which they are registered at the time of signing.

Responsibilities of the canvasser

Canvassers must: Canvassers must not:
witness every signature they collect leave petition sheets unattended
be volunteers allow voters to sign a petition more than once
canvass only during the initiative period. Canvassing is not permitted after the close of the petition period, regardless of whether or not the full 90 days has elapsed alter, in any way, the cover sheet and petition sheets provided. Only signatures gathered on copies of the official petition sheets will be considered for petition verification purposes. Signatures gathered on other forms or sheets will not be accepted
attach the petition cover sheet to the petition sheets while being circulated for signatures knowingly make any false or misleading statements about the petition or the subject of the petition
carry the identification card issued by Elections BC and produce it upon request draw a diagonal line across the unsigned portion of a page or make any unnecessary lines or marks on petition sheets
inform signatories of the eligibility requirement. Signatories must be registered voters in the electoral district for which they sign a petition remove, cross out or interfere with a signature on a petition
ensure the petition sheets are signed in ink on the pre-printed side accept initiative contributions of money, goods or services unless appointed in writing as an assistant financial agent to the proponent
collect only residential addresses from signatories. Mailing addresses will not be accepted make petition sheets and voters lists available for scrutiny by the public. These documents contain personal information and must be protected
submit only valid petition sheets with original signatures. Photocopies will not be accepted use information obtained while canvassing for signatures for any purpose not authorized by the Recall and Initiative Act or any Regulation, including information contained in the voters list

[Recall and Initiative Act, s. 6]

Frequently Asked Questions

Canvasser FAQs

How much time is allowed for collection of signatures?

The proponent is allowed 90 days from the issue date of the petition to collect signatures.

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

Yes, but only if you register first. In order to canvass, you must register to vote and you must also be approved as a canvasser by Elections BC.

Contact the petition proponent to become a canvasser.

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

No, you can only sign a petition administered by another canvasser in your electoral district.

Can a proponent be a canvasser?

Yes, but the proponent must be approved as a canvasser with Elections BC.

Can I canvass for more than one initiative petition?

Yes, but you will need to submit a separate canvasser application for each initiative petition. Contact the petition proponent to become a canvasser.

Who can sign a petition?

An individual who was registered to vote on the date the petition was issued may sign a petition.

A person may only sign a petition signature sheet for the electoral district in which they are a registered voter at the time of signing. Signatures must be signed in the presence of the canvasser.

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.

Do I have the right to access to apartment buildings or strata properties to collect signatures?

No. Canvassers are not guaranteed access to rental or strata properties. Access may be granted at the discretion of the landlord or property owner.

Do I have the right to 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.

If an individual has signed the petition with a new legal name, but their previous legal name appears on the Provincial Voters List, how do they ensure their signature is counted during the verification process?

Before the petition is submitted to Elections BC, the voter must update their registration online, by phoning 1-800-661-8683 or by visiting the Elections BC office. The voter must provide their former name and current name when updating their registration.

Voter FAQs

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

No. Only individuals who are 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?

If a voter signs a petition, their name, residential address, signature and phone number will be available for public inspection at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.

The voter 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.

Can I remove my signature from a petition? If so, how?

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?

You will need to provide:

  • your name,
  • your residential address, and
  • your signature.

You will also be asked to provide a phone number, but this is optional.

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 so that your signature can be counted.

You can provide a work or personal number.

You can also request to have your address and phone number obscured on the public inspection copy of the petition. Simply check the box to the right of your signature line.

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. You may update your voter registration online or by phoning 1-800-661-8683.

The address you provide on the initiative petition must match your address on the Provincial Voters List.

I’m a registered voter 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. You may update your voter registration online or by phoning 1-800-661-8683.