What It Would Take to Recall BC Liberals over refusal to listen to public and eliminate the HST
Odds of recalling MLAs over HST will grow as tax hits and public feels ignored
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday June 29, 2010
By Bill Tieleman
"Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government."
- Former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King
On June 30, the Fight HST citizens initiative petition signed by over 700,000 British Columbia voters demanding the Harmonized Sales Tax be killed will be delivered to Elections B.C. in Victoria.
And on July 1 -- Canada Day -- the B.C. Liberal government will ignore that unprecedented and historic exercise in direct democracy, imposing the new 12 per cent HST that will shift $2 billion in taxes onto consumers from big businesses.
Premier Gordon Campbell, Finance Minister Colin Hansen and B.C. Liberal MLAs will show contempt not only for the initiative process that obtained almost as many signed petitions as their party got votes in the 2009 provincial election --751,791 -- but for poll after poll showing overwhelming opposition to the HST.
Instead of listening to the will of the people, this bad government will push ahead with a tax that will dramatically and negatively hurt B.C. consumers, with a Statistics Canada study estimateing the average household will pay an extra $521 more in HST every year.
Rather than respecting public opinion, this autocratic government will push an extra seven per cent tax down British Columbians' throats on everything from restaurant food to domestic airline tickets to home repairs, cleaning and renovation to realtor and accounting fees to concert and sports tickets to gym memberships to dry cleaning to massage therapy to funeral services to investment counselling fees to new homes over $525,000 right down to postage stamps.
There is now only one answer to such an autocratic, undemocratic government -- to recall its elected members.
Ignoring the message
I proposed recall in this column Aug. 11, 2009, arguing that: "The appropriate response to abuse of power is to remove power."
The citizens initiative petition led by Fight HST leader and former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm that I support has given the B.C. Liberals a clear indication of just how angry British Columbians are with the HST -- a tax that party denied they would impose before the May 15, 2009 election.
And the citizens initiative provided Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen an opportunity to reverse their serious mistake by cancelling the HST.
Despite this, the B.C. Liberal government has rejected every single indication from the people that the HST is despised. They even ignored one of their own cabinet ministers -- Blair Lekstrom -- who resigned from the B.C. Liberal caucus over imposing the HST.
The initiative process has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams from when I first proposed it here on Aug. 18, 2009. The NO BC HST Facebook protest group I started last July after the HST was announced has also had a fantastic response -- today it has over 136,000 members.
But the initiative -- as powerful an expression of public will as it is -- cannot stop or reverse the HST. Its main purpose has been to unmistakably demonstrate widespread voter anger and give the B.C. Liberals a chance to repent.
Whether the initiative results in a non-binding vote in September 2011 or the introduction of the initiative's HST Extinguishment Act in the B.C. Legislature, the government is under no obligation to kill the HST.
So now is the time for even more dramatic action against a government that simply will not listen to reason -- make them listen to the recall of their own MLAs who voted to impose the HST.
Recalls face a high bar
Recall is a very tough test -- to remove an MLA from office requires obtaining the signatures of 40 per cent of those voters registered in the riding at the time of the 2009 election within 60 days.
But just like the extremely challenging initiative rules -- obtaining 10 per cent of all registered voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings in 90 days -- it definitely can be done.
There are now at least 11 ridings where the B.C. Liberal MLA got fewer votes than the number of voters who signed the citizens initiative petition.
And Fight HST has released a "hit" list of 24 B.C. Liberal MLAs who could be targets for recall campaigns when they are officially permitted, starting November 15.
Canada Day marks HST era
I predict a firestorm of anger will erupt starting on Canada Day as British Columbians who have not been following the HST controversy wake up to discover that hundreds of goods and services they buy are now seven per cent more expensive.
And then there's the one cent a litre carbon tax increase at the pumps, also effective July 1, literally throwing gas on the HST fire.
Life in B.C. is getting a lot more expensive -- and Gordon Campbell and his MLAs will pay a high price for imposing the HST.