- Blair Lekstrom
Shocking news this morning - BC Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom has resigned from the BC Liberal caucus and his cabinet position as Energy Minister over his opposition to the government's ongoing imposition of the new Harmonized Sales Tax - the HST.
The 12% HST will add 7% to hundreds of goods and services that previously were only subject to the 5% GST - shifting $2 billion in taxes from business to consumers and sparking a province-wide campaign to stop the tax - Fight HST - led by former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm.
The Fight HST citizens Initiative petition has over 620,000 signatures and has reached both the 10% legal requirement for Elections BC to approve the petition and an additional 5% buffer to cover any possible disallowed signatures.
Lekstrom sent a letter of resignation to Premier Gordon Campbell this morning that states:
"Today I submitted to the Premier my formal resignation from the Cabinet position of Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and I informed him that I would no longer be able to serve as a member of the BC Liberal Caucus."
"I will continue my duties as MLA for Peace River South."
"It is clear to me that the residents of Peace River South are opposed to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and are unhappy with the way in which our government moved forward with this policy,"
"The people of my riding face additional challenges as a border community."
"I recognize and admit that I supported the HST when our government made the decision to move forward with it last summer. And, as a member of Caucus and Cabinet, I can confirm that the HST was not contemplated before the May 2009 election."
"This is not about being right or wrong; in fact, I firmly believe that government is making a decision they believe will help the province, but as we have been unable to bring the public along, I acknowledge there is a need to re-evaluate this decision. "
"My decision to resign from Cabinet and the BC Liberal Caucus was very difficult, but I fundamentally disagree with the direction our government is headed on the HST."
"When I was elected, I promised myself, my family and my constituents that I would not change who I am to do this job, and I have reached a point where my beliefs and values no longer align with my government."
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett has been appointed to replace Lekstrom as energy minister in place of Lekstrom.
Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart has been appointed minister of community and rural development in place of Bennett, and Vancouver-False Creek MLA Mary McNeil becomes minister of citizen services.
UPDATE 10:50 a.m.
The Canadian Press and other media are reporting on news conferences by both Lekstrom and Campbell this morning.
Said Lekstrom: "It was a tough decision but it had to be made. Fundamentally, the HST is it.The people I represent say we want to talk to you about this, we want you to put the brakes on the HST.
"I ran on who I was. The people I represent say we think you should be talking to us."
"We've done, I think, a tremendous amount of work for this province but the HST issue is one that you know, we made with the best of intentions, and I think to me a clear example of it was an idea
by government that forgot to bring the public along with that idea."
"It's been a challenge."
"It's probably one of the most difficult decisions I've made. Not so much, honestly, about myself but about the impact this will have on my colleagues."
"My priority is to listen to the public and that's my view on why I as elected and I'm going to follow through on that." Campbell was clearly surprised by Lekstrom's resignation.
"I wasn't expecting this one."
"I respect his position. I understand it but....we clearly disagree."
Campbell said Lekstrom informed him Wednesday that he might quit.
Campbell told him to think about it but Lekstrom tendered his resignation Friday morning.
"We had to do what was right, not what was popular."