Surrey Chamber of Commerce wants business vote restored for municipal elections – North Delta Reporter


The Surrey Chamber of Commerce is considering lobbying the provincial government to restore business voting in municipal elections.

In a statement released Wednesday, July 13, the council said local elected officials should be accountable to commercial taxpayers through the electoral system.

“Businesses bear the burden of taxation, even as they create jobs, give back to their communities and make significant investments in the city, but they are not allowed to participate in the electoral process,” said Anita Huberman, President and CEO of the Surrey Chamber of Commerce.

Until 1993, a business – or enterprise – vote existed in municipal elections in British Columbia.

According to a 2010 working paper from the Government of British Columbia and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, there were two types of business votes: one until 1973, then another between 1976 and 1993.

The corporate vote up to 1973 was very different from the later vote. It allowed all corporations regardless of corporate structure’, there were no residency restrictions so foreign corporations could vote and there was an unlimited number of votes so an individual could vote for as many corporations that he owned.

Voting from 1976 to 1993, however, allowed “one corporation, one vote”, so if a person controlled more than one corporation in a municipality, they could only register for one to vote and one person could not register her company if she resided in the same municipality.

Huberman told the Now-Leader that the board has “always supported the return of corporate voting,” but especially now “given the challenges of the pandemic and the economy.”

She said the board plans to “bring it directly to the BC government, as well as the federal government.”

“For others to move this forward, we need action now from the BC government.”

Huberman said businesses create jobs, adding that “the economy is private sector driven” and they give back to the community.

“But they cannot participate in the electoral process in the decisions that are made.

She added that the council’s preference would be for a company’s vote to be tied to its business license.

“If there are two owners for this company, both owners should be able to vote. There are ways to make this fair and ensure that our election system is not compromised.

However, Mayor Doug McCallum said he thinks “it’s pretty much a double vote for some people.”

“I mean a lot of our businesses (owners) work in Surrey and live in Surrey and they have a vote through the voting mechanism,” he noted. “It’s not democratic – so I don’t support it in any way.”

Asked if his answer would be different if the business owners didn’t live in Surrey, McCallum said he would instead ‘encourage’ them to move to the city.

“We do this. We encourage people to come and live in our city and that’s why they have businesses.

In the meantime, the council is also calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

Asked about the connection between being able to vote at 16 and businesses, Huberman replied that the council tries to ensure “that the future of our workforce, our future entrepreneurs participate in the livability and the economy of our city, and of course to our province and nation.

“They participate in the economy, they work,” Huberman added. “Many of our youth team members run businesses, but decisions are made that impact their lives, but they are unable to participate in the electoral process. So it’s really taken into consideration for the future of our economy and to take care of our future workforce and our future entrepreneurs.

– With files by Tom Zytaruk

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