The City of Victoria council has passed the motion to authorize borrowing $42 000 000 for the construction of a new Johnson Street Bridge. The council also chose not put this borrowing to a referendum but instead have decided to use the counter petition process.
The counter petition process is one that is used in BC to ensure public input/consent into capital borrowing by local governments. The idea is that if 10% of the electors are not willing to sign a petition to push an issue to a referendum means that there is public consent for the project. The thinking behind the creation of this process was to make it easier for local goverments to go forward with borrowing when there is broad based public support for a project. Local goverments seem to have been using the process more often that they should be, certainly the bridge project is a big project that has been rushed and should undergo the scrutiny of a referendum.
People have 45 days to formally sign the petition. Only eligible electors may sign. The final time for signatures to be presented to the City is January 4th 2010.
There is no formal list of electors for the City, so there is a bit of a problem being able to tell how many people count towards the 10% needed on a petition. The estimate is that there are around 64 000 electors in the City.
From the 2006 census, the City of Victoria had 78,055 residents, of which 61,525 were of citizens of voting age. There are also non-residents listed in the census and people have not lived in BC long enough to qualify as voters. Based on the 2006 and given that it is now 2009, I would be surprised if there were more than 59,000 eligible voters.
The 63,300 eligible voters in the 2008 election seems out of sync with the census numbers. In any case, it seems that 6400 signatures will be needed to have the counter petition succeed. Realistically the organizers behind the counter petition will have to get at least several thousand more signatures as many people that do not live in the City of Victoria will sign the petition. Some people will also sign more than once.
Given that Christmas is coming, there are really only four weeks left for the signatures to be gathered. This means getting about 2000 signatures a week for the next four weeks.
I will be signing the counter petition and will be helping to get the signatures needed, as I can. I have been unhappy with the process the City has been going through to build the new bridge and feel that pushing the issue to a referendum will cause the city to rethink the planning process for the bridge. Since there is no rush to build the bridge, time can be taken to consult with the public in a much more meaningful manner.