Initiative is a process through which a registered voter can propose a new law or changes to an existing law on matters over which the provincial legislature has authority.
The voter must collect signatures from 10% of the registered voters in each of the province’s electoral districts for an initiative petition to succeed.
The initiative process is unique to B.C. – no other province or territory in Canada has initiative legislation.
The Chief Electoral Officer has approved eleven initiative petition applications since the Recall and Initiative Act came into force in 1995. One petition, the 2010 Initiative Petition to End the Harmonized Sales Tax, was successful.
Elections BC administers the initiative petition process according to rules established in the Recall and Initiative Act.
View the Initiative Petition Timeline (PDF) for key dates and deadlines in the initiative process.
This page of our website provides an overview of the initiative process. For more information, or to view the information on this page in PDF format, download the Guide to the Initiative Process (869) (PDF), or visit our Initiative Frequently Asked Questions page.
Applying for a petition
Any registered voter in British Columbia can apply to have an initiative petition issued. Organizations are not eligible to apply.
The applicant must submit the following to Elections BC:
- A complete and signed Application for Initiative Petition (910) (PDF) form
- A legislative proposal in the form of a draft Bill
- A complete and signed Appointment of Financial Agent (915) (PDF) form
- A non-refundable $50 processing fee, paid by cash, money order, bank draft, traveller’s cheque, or certified cheque payable to the Minister of Finance
The draft Bill must be clear and unambiguous, and related to a matter within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislature.
If the Chief Electoral Officer grants approval in principle to the initiative petition application, the petition is issued to the applicant (now called the proponent) 60 days later. Opponents of the petition must register with Elections BC within 30 days of approval in principle (see Initiative Opponents below).
Collecting signatures (canvassing)
When a petition is issued, the proponent has 90 days to collect signatures from 10% of the registered voters in each electoral district.
Canvassers can help collect signatures and:
- must volunteer their time
- must be registered voters
- must submit a completed Initiative Petition Application for Canvasser Registration (911) (PDF) to the proponent
The proponent is responsible for registering canvassers with Elections BC, who will provide approved canvasser identification cards. Canvassers have legal obligations to follow, which are outlined in the Initiative Petition Canvasser Guide (936) (PDF).
Signing a petition
Only individuals who are registered to vote on the day an initiative petition is issued may sign the petition.
Individuals must only sign an initiative petition once (signing more than once is an offence).
Individuals must sign the petition sheet for the electoral district in which they are a registered voter at the time of signing.
Signatures must be accompanied by the voter’s residential address on the petition sheet (mailing addresses are not acceptable). Signatures on petition sheets must be witnessed by a canvasser registered with Elections BC.
If you are unsure if you are eligible to sign a petition, contact Elections BC.
Submitting and verifying a petition
After an initiative petition is submitted, Elections BC has 42 days to verify whether enough valid signatures were collected. If signatures are collected from at least 10% of the registered voters in each electoral district, and if the proponent has met the financing requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act, the Chief Electoral Officer will send a copy of the petition and draft Bill to the legislature’s Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives.
The Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives must meet within 30 days after receiving the initiative petition and draft Bill. The committee then has 90 days to consider the legislative proposal. It can recommend introducing the draft Bill in the legislature, or refer the petition and draft Bill back to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote.
Initiative petition opponents
Organizations or individuals who intend to incur expenses opposing an initiative petition must register as an initiative petition opponent or initiative advertising sponsor.
Opponents must apply to the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days of approval in principle of an initiative petition. There can be a maximum of five opponents.
Organizations or individuals can apply to be opponents to an initiative petition by completing and submitting the initiative petition opponent application package.
Initiative petition opponent registration forms
- Initiative Petition Opponent Application – Organization (912)
- Initiative Petition Opponent Application – Individual (913)
- Initiative Opponent Application for Financial Agent (914)
- Appointment of Assistant Financial Agent (950)
Organizations or individuals who intend to apply as an initiative opponent should refer to the Application Process for Initiative Petition Opponents (952) (PDF).
See the Advertising section below for information on becoming an initiative advertising sponsor.
If required, initiative votes are held every three years on the last Saturday in September. The next possible date for an initiative vote is September 26, 2020.
Initiative votes are different from referenda. An initiative vote is held under the Recall and Initiative Act, and is not a referendum as defined by the Referendum Act.
The Chief Electoral Officer will declare an initiative vote successful if more than 50% of the registered voters in the province and more than 50% of the total number of registered voters in at least two-thirds of the province’s electoral districts vote in favour of the initiative.
If the initiative vote succeeds, the government must introduce the draft Bill accompanying the petition in the legislature at the earliest practicable opportunity.
After the Bill is introduced the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act have been met. The Bill will proceed through the legislative process like any other Bill, with no guarantee of passage.
Individuals or organizations who intend to incur expenses to promote or oppose an initiative vote must apply to Elections BC to register as a proponent or opponent, or an initiative advertising sponsor. There can be a maximum of five opponents and six proponents in relation to an initiative vote. Organizations or individuals can apply to register by submitting the initiative vote application package.
Initiative vote application package
- Initiative Vote Application for Opponent or Proponent Registration (997)
- Initiative Vote Application for Financial Agent (927)
- Appointment of Assistant Financial Agent (950)
For more information, see the Application Process for Initiative Vote Opponents and Proponents (999) (PDF).
See the Advertising section below for more information on becoming an initiative advertising sponsor.
Anyone other than the proponent or registered opponents of an initiative petition or initiative vote who wants to conduct advertising that supports or opposes the initiative must first register with Elections BC as an initiative advertising sponsor by submitting the Initiative Advertising Sponsor Application for Registration (930) form.
Advertisers and the media must ensure all initiative advertising includes an authorization statement that identifies who sponsored the advertising.
For more details, refer to the Guide to Initiative Communications (893) (PDF) and Media Obligations for Initiative Petitions and Votes (864) (PDF).
Initiative petition advertising sponsors must file a disclosure report with Elections BC within 28 days after the end of the initiative petition period.
Initiative vote advertising sponsors must file a report with Elections BC within 90 days after General Voting Day.
For more information, see the Initiative Advertising Sponsor Disclosure Report Completion Guide (875) (PDF).
Initiative forms submission
They are also available at Elections BC’s Victoria office at 1112 Fort Street or by calling toll-free 1-800-661-8683 / TTY 1-888-456-5448 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.