McGuinty likes citizens assembly initiative, B.C. premier says

Published November 24th 2003 in Toronto Star
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said today that Dalton McGuinty expressed interest in B.C.'s new citizens' assembly, which is to come up with recommendations on political reforms that will be put to a referendum in 2005.

"He's certainly interested in the process we've gone through, why we did it," Campbell said after an hour-long meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty at the Ontario legislature.

"I outlined the fundamentals behind it."

Democratic reform was a key plank in the Liberal platform in the run-up to Ontario's Oct. 2 election. The program calls for setting fixed four-year terms for elections. Currently, the sitting premier can choose voting day at any point within a five-year mandate.

B.C. already has fixed four-year terms and its Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform will look at other ideas, such as a system of proportional representation.

In all, 158 people - one man and one woman from each of British Columbia's 79 constituencies - will study electoral systems around the world in the next year and recommend whether to change voting to the province.

B.C.'s government has committed to altering the electoral system for the 2009 provincial election if more than 60 per cent of people support change in the referendum.

McGuinty did not talk to reporters after the meeting, his first formal encounter with his Liberal counterpart since being sworn in Oct. 23.

Campbell also praised his Ontario counterpart for trying to keep the public informed in light of a huge deficit that McGuinty argues has already forced him to break various promises.

"People need to know where the government is going and why it's going there and your premier is trying to do that here in Ontario," Campbell said.

McGuinty has had a rough first month in office. After discovering the province was headed toward a $5.6-billion deficit, he said he had no choice but to break several key election promises, such as maintaining a cap on retail electricity rates that is costing the treasury hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Campbell, who has come under fire for his own cost-cutting initiatives, said his province has been through the mad cow crisis, SARS, floods, droughts and its worst forest-fire season - all this year.

"You know the world interferes," Campbell said.

"You can't simply carry on with government as if none of that has any impact."