For many years, British Columbia made use of two or three-member ridings in its electoral representations; these distributions did not keep pace with the rapid population growth of some areas however, and consequently many areas were soon found to be grossly under-represented. In 1985, John Dixon of the BC Civil Liberties Union petitioned the British Columbia Supreme Court to apply the Charter of Rights to the Constitution Act, and review the current allocation of seats. The case took over three years, resulted in three decisions (most notably, the conclusion that the disparity of voters to members in some regions was in fact unconstitutional), and prompted a variety of efforts to redistribute the electoral boundaries, including the Fisher Commission of Inquiry.
In the campaign leading up to the 1986 General Election, the Social Credit candidates committed their government, if re-elected, to eliminating the 17 dual-member electoral districts. After winning the election, in April of 1987 the Vander Zalm government appointed Judge Thomas Fisher to head a Royal Commission on the issue of electoral boundary redistribution. While Fisher’s initial mandate was limited, the contiguous nature of all the boundaries made redistribution within the initial terms both ambiguous and challenging, and by September 1987, his terms of reference were expanded so that his recommendations might consider all the electoral districts. Fisher’s solution was to propose increasing the number of electoral districts (thereby increasing the seats in the Legislature as well) from 69 to 75, due to population increases in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, and the need for proportional representation within an acceptable margin. As a party, the NDP supported Fisher’s recommendations, and made several submissions to the Commission throughout its review. Ultimately, the Legislative Assembly eventually adopted Fisher’s recommendations to increase the number of electoral districts, in the Electoral Districts Act, SBC 1990, c. 39, Schedule 2, as well as Fisher’s recommendation for new legislation, as enacted in the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, SBC 1989, c. 65.
The files in this series document the NDP’s participation in this Commission, and its internal strategizing and research. These records appear to have been created by both the Provincial Secretary, and the Chair of the Redistribution Committee, Jeff Hoskins. File 392-16 appears to have been created by Blair Marshall, Redistribution Organizer. The subseries includes correspondence, memos, notes, drafts, reports, research materials, statistics, public communications, and other related materials.