Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Hi all - I'm off on summer holidays until early September - but don't worry - I'm still fighting the HST and everything else that makes the world worse!
My columns will still be appearing in 24 hours and The Tyee online and I will try to post all your comments on blog items as best I can while travelling and doing some R & R - please be patient.
And get some rest your good selves - this promises to be a wild fall as the province gets ready to teach the BC Liberal government a powerful lesson about the HST - you work for us - not the other way around!
Oh - and did I mention the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid trial resumes Monday September 13?
Be safe, remain cool and stay tuned.
BC Liberals face stark choice after court validates HST petition.
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday August 24, 2010
By Bill Tieleman
"The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen."
- Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1856-1941
Rescind the Harmonized Sales Tax or face the recall of B.C. Liberal government MLAs starting this fall.
Those are the two stark choices facing Premier Gordon Campbell after the B.C. Supreme Court delivered a stinging ruling Friday upholding the validity of the first successful citizens-initiative petition in Canadian history.
Chief Justice Robert Bauman made it personal, too, by quoting Campbell himself in the second paragraph of his decision as saying the initiative was "a victory for democracy."
Then Bauman threw out every one of the arguments made by a coalition of big business organizations whose members help finance the B.C. Liberal Party, while one of their lawyers, former B.C. Liberal attorney general Geoff Plant, sat glumly watching.
Key players stay away
But neither lead lawyer Peter Gall nor a single business representative attended court to hear the decision or comment to the media in person; a news release expressing "disappointment" was later issued by the coalition.
Bauman reserved judgement on a potentially even more devastating decision -- whether the HST itself is unconstitutional, as argued by veteran lawyer Joe Arvay, representing initiative proponent and former premier Bill Vander Zalm.
Now the initiative process is back on track -- but it is a slow train that can never force the government to kill the HST -- it is simply an overwhelming expression of public anger that so far the B.C. Liberals have dangerously ignored.
But as of Nov. 15, recall campaigns can begin to unseat government MLAs who imposed the HST.
List shows vulnerable BC Liberals
And following the Bauman decision, Elections BC released detailed results of the initiative petition that suggest which B.C. Liberals are most vulnerable to recall in the fall.
At the top of the list is MLA Donna Barnett in Cariboo-Chilcotin, where 31.5 per cent of verified voters signed the initiative petition, the highest percentage for any B.C. Liberal and second-most in the province.
Close behind are MLA John Slater in Boundary-Similkameen, at 30.3 per cent, Labour Minister Murray Coell in Saanich North and the Islands at 26 per cent and Aboriginal Relations Minister George Abbott in Shuswap at 24.5 per cent.
In total there are 22 B.C. Liberal ridings where more than 18 per cent of verified voters supported the initiative.
(The website BC Election 2013 has posted two complete tables using Elections B.C. data to show both which ridings had the most signatures by percentage of verified voters and which ridings had the highest percentage of verified voters compared to petition signatures actually submitted.)
Recall rules are tough
Recall is a significant challenge, however, requiring 40 per cent of registered voters in the 2009 election to sign a recall petition in just 60 days.
That's one reason why the percentages aren't the only factor to consider in recall -- others include local campaign ability, voter mobility, financial resources, geography, winter weather and many more.
But while the Fight HST initiative campaign -- which I support -- had 90 days to collect 10 per cent of all registered voters signatures in all 85 ridings at once, recall campaigns can target one or two at a time and enlist volunteers from nearby ridings to help.
And with Fight HST boasting 6,556 registered canvassers for the initiative campaign, no one should think troops are lacking.
So it all comes down to three little letters, HST; two choices, rescind or recall; and one enormous problem for the B.C. Liberal government.
Below is the complete letter of resignation from the executive and party of Blake MacKenzie, a 12-year member of the BC Conservatives.
Ironically, because they are increasingly seen as an anti-HST right of centre alternative to the unpopular BC Liberal Party that imposed the new tax, the BC Conservatives have been rising in the polls.
A July poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion put the BC Conservatives at 8% province wide, compared to the BC Liberals at just 23%, the BC NDP at 46% and the Green Party at 14%.
More astonishingly if MacKenzie's predictions prove true, 75% of British Columbians want the HST abolished and 67% of voters in BC Liberal ridings would sign a recall petition to remove their MLA.
But a news release dated August 22 from BC Conservative Party President Wayne McGrath seems to validate MacKenzie's charges, as it states in part that:
"British Columbians need relief now in the form of increased exemptions from the HST. The government needs to lessen the load for British Columbians now by removing more items from the tax," McGrath said.
Here is MacKenzie's letter, which I obtained. I welcome a response from the BC Conservatives.
* * * * *
August 23, 2010
Dear BC Conservative Party Members, the president, and Board,
It is with deep regret that I wish to inform you that I am resigning effective immediately from the Provincial Board of Directors as Director at Large, and cancelling my membership in the party.
I have lost confidence in the leadership of the party and the direction it has chosen to follow.
I have been deeply concerned by the backroom dealings and the amount of power that has transferred into the hands of an unelected group of self ordained political brokers to guide the party. Those of us who were actually elected back in September are being trampled and moved out of the way in favour of appointed, unelected people who are now controlling the party.
I would have thought the party would have learned its lesson from 2004 where operatives working for both the BC Liberals and the federal Conservatives came in and caused maximum disruption and prevented BC Unity from merging with the BC Conservative Party.
The Party is now dominated with mostly political appointments by the TAG group and their leader Randy White. The Provincial board has been taken over by those closely allied to the federal Conservative Party and their members currently involved in the BC Liberal Party.
I cannot and will not support this type of activity in the party. Some of our finest talent in the party is being marginalized because of their opposition to the HST.
Chris Delaney is the most public figure in our party and the leadership regards him as though he is a liability to the party. His treatment by the TAG leader Randy White, President Wayne McGrath, and Conservative MP John Cummins can only be described as disrespectful and disingenuous.
The one person who could point thousands of people to our party and has, with his involvement as a leader in the Fight HST organization, helped to demolish the BC Liberals, is considered by these unelected newcomers as not good enough to side with or mention his name in conjunction with the BC Conservative Party name. Shame!
I can no longer support a party that sides with the BC Liberals and the federal Conservative Party over the HST and over the people of BC. The people of BC have spoken and the party leadership in the BC Conservative Party will not listen. Pretending to listen is not listening.
We all know where the HST policy is going to come from; it will be developed by federal Conservatives as a watered down version that still accepts the HST to make sure their political masters in Ottawa are satisfied. I know the people of BC will not approve.
The party is now in the hands of outside, unelected interests which contradicts one of our most important constitutional philosophies - representing the interests of British Columbians first above all others.
The party leadership considers working with failed BC Liberal politicians and federal Conservatives who supported the HST, over attracting the hundreds of thousands of people in BC who oppose the HST, and oppose those who gave it to us. I for one will not be part of watching the party be taken over by a group of people, only to see them bring forth the same type of top down, backroom, undemocratic politics we were trying to replace in the BC Liberal Party.
I believe the choices made by the leadership of the party, including the TAG leader Randy White and the Fed Cons will fail, and the BC Conservative Party will collapse into obscurity.
I will continue to work together with all others of good faith for the betterment of British Columbia to ensure BC stays in the hands of the people of BC, and out of the clutches of those who would use her for their own ends.
Former elected Director at Large and member of the BC Conservative Party since 1998.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Stunning victory in BC Supreme Court for Fight HST and 705,643 voters who signed citizens Initiative over big business coalition
Chief Justice Robert Bauman delivered a shocking rebuke to BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell and his big business financial supporters in BC Supreme Court today, ruling that the Fight HST citizens Initiative is completely valid and should immediately proceed.
Bauman tellingly even quoted Campbell in the second paragraph of his written decision, saying that the premier had called the successful Initiative launched by proponent and former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm a "victory for democracy" after it passed the threshold required by the Recall and Initiative Act.
Consider that a slap in the face to Gordon Campbell.
Bauman said the big business coalition legal action that caused Elections BC Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James mean that: "The proponents of the Initiative Petition are current denied the fruits of their 'victory for democracy'."
Not any more.
Bauman rejected each and every one of the big business coalition's arguments, as advance by lead lawyer Peter Gall of Heenan Blaikie and supported by former BC Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant, former Labour Relations Board chair Don Munroe - both also of Heenan Blaikie, and UBC law professor Robin Elliot.
Only Plant was in court for the decision and did not appear outside court to make a statement to the media.
But Bill Vander Zalm and NDP leader Carole James both were.
"Today is a great day for the province, a great day for democracy - we won, we won!" an elated Vander Zalm said.
And Vander Zalm warned the BC Liberal government that Recall campaigns will start in mid-November if the HST is not eliminated in a vote by the BC Legislature.
James called on Campbell to immediately bring MLAs back to the Legislature for a free vote on the HST.
"We hear rumours the premier doesn't want a fall session, well what could be more important to deal with than 700,000 British Columbians who've spoken with one voice, a clear voice. It's time for the Premier to act," James told a media throng.
"I would respectfully ask that the Chief Electoral Officer perform his remaining duties under the Recall and Initiative Act forthwith," Bauman wrote.
And now Elections BC has released the total results of the Fight HST Initiative and full riding by riding breakdowns along with a news release stating the petition will be forward to the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives on Monday August 23.
There is no explanation why the letter is not being sent today.
Elections BC reports that 557,383 of the total 705,643 signatures obtained by Fight HST were valid - meaning that 148,260 signatures were rejected for whatever reason.
The closest riding appears at first glance to have been Abbotsford South, which still passed by a margin of 599 voters.
Bauman rejected all Gall's arguments advance on Wednesday - that voters were "misled" by the Initiative petition and draft HST Extinguishment Act; that ending the HST was beyond the jurisdiction of the provincial government because of its agreement with the federal Conservative government to impose the HST; and that Elections BC should not have approved Vander Zalm's Initiative in the first place.
And Bauman left no doubt that the BC Legislature can kill the HST if it so chooses in a vote.
BC Chamber of Commerce President John Winter told CKNW radio's Christy Clark today that the business coalition will not appeal Bauman's decision, admitting that he was "disappointed" with the decision but will live with it.
And Winter suggested that maybe there should be a provincial referendum on the HST.
"We've heard a lot from people who oppose the HST, maybe we should hear from those who support it," Winter said.
The big business coalition members are: the Council of Forest Industries, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Mining Association of B.C., the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Coast Forest Products Association and the Western Convenience Stores Association.
More bad news for the coalition: a new blog called Honestly Shared Taxation is calling for BC consumers to put pressure on individual coalition business members, including considering a boycott of their products.
Honestly Shared Taxation founders Laila Yuile and Norman Farrell - both veteran bloggers - have listed many of the individual business members' extensive donations to the BC Liberal Party on their new website.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Will the Fight HST citizen's Initiative be ruled legal or illegal on Friday?
BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman said this afternoon that he plans to issue his decision at 10 a.m. Friday if at all possible,after hearing arguments from a big business coalition that wants to invalidate the Initiative petition signed by 705,643 voters.
That follows a day of arguments from the business organization's legal team - which strangely included comparing the campaign against the HST to a possible citizens Initiative effort to legalize marijuana in BC and saying voters had been "fooled" into signing the Fight HST petition.
Lead business lawyer Peter Gall said the proposed Fight HST draft legislation to kill the HST that was attached to the petition was no more possible for the BC Legislature to implement than it would be able to make marijuana legal in the province.
Bauman also heard counter arguments from lawyers for Fight HST leader and former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm, the petition proponent, as well as a lawyer for Elections BC, which approved the wording before it was launched.
And NDP MLA Mike Farnworth strongly disagreed with Gall's position, saying that the entire Initiative question should be dealt with by the BC Legislature, not the court.
Gall, whose legal team includes former BC Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant, was scathing in his attacks on the Initiative.
And Gall rejected any allegations that the business community is playing politics with the Initiative.
"There have been arguments that my clients are interfering with the political process, advancing their own interests - that's just not so. My clients simply want to see the rules followed," Gall said.
"There would be harm done to the political process if this Bill is introduced in the Legislature and the debate is not about the content of the Bill but whether it is constitutional," he said.
That brought a witty rejoinder from Bauman.
"You say it's wrong and they say it's right - and I have to resolve all that?" he asked to laugher in the courtroom.
But Gall forcefully argued that the Fight HST proposed legislation is beyond the province's ability to change because it entered into an agreement with the federal Conservative government to implement the HST.
"The proposed Bill is clearly, clearly in its pith and substance outside the jurisdiction of the province," Gall said. "This statute would nullify the HST immediately....The Act clearly indicated that it extinguishes the HST in British Columbia - and it can't do that."
"It [the Act] doesn't have the constitutional jurisdiction to render inapplicable the HST in BC. Only Parliament through an amendment to the Excise Tax Act can extinguish the HST in BC," Gall said.
Then the longtime adversary of labour unions in countless Labour Relations Board hearings went on the offensive against the Fight HST petition and draft legislation.
"This was very carefully, carefully constructed to have a very misleading and incorrect assumption - that this would eliminate the HST immediately," he said. "The summary also wrongly leads people to believ extinguishing the agreement [with Ottawa] will extinguish the HST."
Gall argued that Bauman should use the provisions of the Recall and Initiative Act that the petition was launched under to rule that the Fight HST effort is invalid and kill the legislation rather than let it go to a Select Standing Committee of the Legislature.
"That's what the Act was designed to prevent - from people being fooled," Gall said.
Fight HST lawyer Bruce Elwood argued strongly against the business coalition position.
"The intent of the Initiative process is to take the Executive [the BC cabinet] out and go directly to the Legislature," Elwood said. "The heart of the [Fight HST] Bill is very simple - to terminate the agreement."
Outside court NDP MLA Farnworth said that if the business coalition argument is upheld by Bauman, the Initiative process is dead.
"It will render the law basically useless," Farnworth said. "That's not what was intended with this legislation - this was a way for ordinary citizens to participate."
"The court should not be, in my view, pre-screening legislation. The Legislature decides what it will discuss and what will pass."
"The court should rule in favour of Vander Zalm and toss out the business coalition case," Farnworth said.
Bauman has reserved judgement on Fight HST's earlier court application to have the HST itself declared unconstitutional based on the fact that the BC Legislature never passed legislation imposing the HST - only to repeal the previous Provincial Sales Tax.
For those interested, the big business coalition members are: the Council of Forest Industries, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Mining Association of B.C., the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Coast Forest Products Association and the Western Convenience Stores Association.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Vander Zalm legal action against HST wraps up; business coalition attacks citizens Initiative next in court
Arvay's summation - after the court heard provincial government and big business coalition lawyers arguments that the HST was imposed by the federal government and cannot be overturned by the province - came down clearly for responsibility of elected representatives to voters for their actions.
Arvay said the HST agreement signed by BC Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen should have been ratified through an Act of the BC Legislature - as HSTs were in every other province that has the tax - but was not.
"If the Executive [cabinet] can enter into this agreement, there is no accountability," Arvay said.
"If in the next election you voted the entire provincial government and the entire federal goverrnment out of office and you still couldn't get rid of the tax - where is the accountability?" Arvay asked, incredulously.
"They're not going to be accountable for giving away BC's taxation ability and not being able to get it back?"
Arvay said it was clear why the BC Liberals didn't pass HST legislation and instead only repealed the provincial sales tax - and he argued that Section 53 of the Constitution Act makes that illegal.
"The government was afraid to go to the Legislature - and that's exactly why Section 53 exists," he said.
Then addressing Baumann very directly, Arvay said the Chief Justice should rule that the BC government Order In Council imposing the HST is unconstitutional.
"Strike down the OIC , strike down the agreement and ensure accountability for taxation exists," Arvay concluded.
A mostly sympathetic courtroom of observers broke into applause for Arvay after Bauman departed.
Earlier, provincial government lawyer George Copley argued that the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement that implemented the HST is not a law and therefore did not need to be the subject of provincial legislation.
“CITCA is not coercive. It is not a law....It is a federal-provincial agreement, a common understanding,” he said, calling it a perfect example of co-operative federalism. “CITCA does not impose a new tax on British Columbia," Copley said, according to the Globe and Mail's Rod Mickleburgh.
Following Copley, big business coalition lawyer Peter Gall argued similarly that provincial legislation was not necessary because the HST had been approved by federal legislation.
"It is an act of Parliament that imposed the tax and not the agreement that was entered into between the province and the federal government.
"Parliament has the jurisdiction to include B.C in the HST. It's really that simple," Gall told the court, according to Province newspaper reporter John Bermingham.
Note: I was only able to attend the final portion of today's hearing - please follow the links above for full accounts of the Copley and Gall arguments.
The big business coalition begins a separate legal action Wednesday to have the citizens Initiative petition thrown out, arguing that it is a federal matter.
Tuesday August 17, 2010
By Bill Tieleman
"If recall is successful, people in government will make decisions based on whether they will be re-elected or recalled instead of what's best for the province."
- B.C. Liberal MLA Eric Foster
And their financial supporters in big business are even trying to block democracy itself.
This week a coalition of big business groups who have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the B.C. Liberal Party will be in B.C. Supreme Court in a legal action that could invalidate the Fight HST citizens initiative petition signed by 705,643 voters.
That's the initiative to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax -- the first-ever successful petition since the legislation was introduced in 1994.
I am very proud of my role working with Fight HST leader and initiative proponent Bill Vander Zalm to allow voters to democratically express their strong opposition to the tax.
But I am extremely saddened to see how the B.C. Liberal government, its business supporters and even Elections B.C. -- the independent body that regulates the initiative and all electoral issues -- have attempted to derail democracy.
Slamming the door to the Legislature
Let's be clear. The initiative process cannot, unfortunately, force the government to kill the HST.
All this successful initiative does is require the government to either introduce the draft HST Extinguishment Act in the B.C. Legislature -- or hold a non-binding province-wide vote on whether it should be introduced.
But once the HST Extinguishment Act has been formally presented in the Legislature, the government need not even call it for debate.
Or the B.C. Liberal majority could bring the act forward for a vote and then defeat it.
Nonetheless, a coalition of B.C. business groups is intent on blocking the non-binding HST Extinguishment Act from even being presented in the Legislature.
Why? The answer is obvious -- the businesses don't want B.C. Liberal MLAs to have to stand up in the Legislature and vote in favour of the HST by killing the act.
And they are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to spare their unpopular political party the embarrassment of publicly supporting the hated HST.
Elections BC halts the process
That's bad enough, and hopefully the court will quickly reject their arguments, but what's worse is that Elections B.C. won't even follow the initiative legislation that clearly states after the petition is verified it "must" be sent to a Select Standing Committee of the Legislature.
Acting chief electoral officer Craig James, a clerk of the Legislature filling in until a new CEO is appointed, verified the initiative by means of a letter to Vander Zalm but no public statement, despite the importance of the event.
And in that letter James said that in "deference" to the business coalition court case he would not send the initiative to the committee until "a final determination is rendered by the court."
It could mean months -- or even years if the coalition loses and then appeals the decision -- before the initiative gets to the Legislature.
That's totally unacceptable and a violation of the Recall and Initiative Act, which gives no such powers to James to delay sending the petition.
The only possible grounds for a delay would be if a court injunction ordered Elections B.C. not to proceed -- but the business coalition has not even applied for one.
MLA Slater's about face
The B.C. Liberal MLAs who sit on the Select Standing Committee could correct Elections B.C.'s mistake by accepting Vander Zalm's suggestion that he send them the petition and HST Extinguishment Act to deal with directly, since it has been verified as passing.
Committee member and Boundary-Similkameen B.C. Liberal MLA John Slater agreed with the idea Saturday.
"We should be the ones looking at it, not the courts. I think the committee could look at that and make sure everybody's got all the facts. Let's get it back to the Committee and move forward," he told the Kelowna Courier.
With NDP MLAs already in favour, Slater's support would mean half the committee agreed.
But Slater's enthusiasm only lasted one day. Likely until someone in Premier Gordon Campbell's office called the rookie MLA and straightened him out.
By Sunday, Slater was telling media that no, it was actually up to Elections B.C. and not the MLAs
"It's got to come from BC Elections [sic]. We have no authority, period, without BC Elections being part of it. We've all heard the number, somewhere around 700,000 signatures, et cetera et cetera. And we've heard that BC Elections has said yes to all 85 ridings being complete. It's up to them to give it to us," Slater said, according to CKNW radio.
Ah yes, back to the independent Elections B.C. that won't follow its own legislative duties.
Go back to sleep?
But in case you are still worried about whether Elections B.C. can be trusted after verifying and then ignoring a petition duly signed by 705,643 voters -- one knowledgeable observer says just relax.
"I have complete confidence in Elections B.C.," he said.
That reassuring word comes from -- once again -- B.C. Liberal MLA Eric Foster.
We should all sleep easier now. Democracy is safe in B.C.
Monday, August 16, 2010
"There should be no taxation in British Columbia without representation."
With that call to arms, veteran constitutional lawyer Joe Arvay outlined powerful arguments against imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax by the BC Liberal government without a vote in the BC Legislature to do so.
Arvay is acting for Fight HST and its leader, former Premier Bill Vander Zalm, in a BC Supreme Court legal action that seeks to have the HST declared unconstitutional.
The case is being heard by Chief Justice Robert Bauman andis opposed by the provincial government and a coalition of big business groups, who have launched their own legal action to overturn the successful Fight HST citizens Initiative petition signed by 705,643 voters.
"This is no small deal. People have fought wars over the right to representation before taxation," Arvay told Bauman in front of a standing-room-only court full of media and observers.
The big business coalition brought out its high-powered legal guns - former BC Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant, now of Heenan Blaikie, colleague and longtime labour union adversary Peter Gall, former Labour Relations Board chair Don Munroe, also at Heenan Blaikie and University of BC constitutional law professor Robin Elliot.
The BC government is represented by veteran lawyer George Copley, who also attends the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid trial on its behalf, and Alison Luke.
Arvay's argument is that while the BC Liberal government repealed the previous Provincial Sales Tax it never passed legislation imposing the Harmonized Sales Tax - thereby violating Section 53 of the Constitution Act.
"In every other province that has the HST there was such a law - in BC there is no such law," Arvay said. "The whole point is to require a law and then a Bill before there is a tax."
Instead, Arvay stated, the HST was imposed through an agreement between the provincial and federal governments signed on BC's part by Finance Minister Colin Hansen.
"It's for the people's representatives to decide, not the Executive with the stroke of a pen in an office," Arvay said, referring to the Executive Branch of government - or cabinet.
Perhaps Arvay's most telling argument in his opening summary turned the BC-Ottawa HST deal - formally called the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination agreement - on its head to make his point.
"In this agreement the provincial and federal governments agree what the Provincial Value Added Tax [provincial portion of the HST] shall be - 7% - and the province now takes the position that no legislation is required," Arvay said.
"And yet, in the Agreement itself the province, if it wants to change the rate, requires legislative consent," he concluded.
Arvay then cited numerous examples of federal politicians, including Conservative cabinet ministers, who publicly said that the decision to impose the HST was a provincial one, not a federal one.
Arvay also quoted BC Liberal provincial cabinet minister Mary Polak from Hansard, as saying that: "The HST has already been passed by the federal government."
That prompted Chief Justice Bauman to interject to laughter in the courtroom.
"Aren't we seeing an awful lot of rhetoric? Everyone's trying to deflect the criticism of who imposes the HST," Bauman said.
Arvay then summed up his argument that legislation imposing the 12% HST in BC does not constitutionally exist.
"There is no legislative approval at any level for an HST of 12%. The provincial component of the HST is not imposed by federal legislation alone," he said.
Outside the court Vander Zalm told media that the government was ignoring "the will of the people" by imposing the HST and had deliberately avoided legislation that would forced BC Liberal MLAs to vote in favour of the new tax.
"I'm sure if a vote were held today, it would be against the HST," Vander Zalm said.
The case continues Tuesday.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Total Recall! Elections BC verifies success of Fight HST citizens Initiative petition - but won't act because of big business court action!
Top - Bill Tieleman, Bill Vander Zalm & Chris Delaney of Fight HST at news conference Wednesday August 11 - Stepan Vdovine photo; bottom - Bill Vander Zalm reads letter from Elections BC verifying success of Fight HST citizens Initiative - Bill Tieleman photo
Words can't describe how elated all of the Fight HST team felt today - and how furious we were at the same time after Elections BC verified the historic first-ever in Canada successful citizens Initiative campaign - and then refused to follow the legislation as you can see in acting Election BC Chief Electoral Officer Craig James letter to Bill Vander Zalm.
The stated reason - because a big business coalition is attempting to take legal action to block the entire Initiative process - a bogus excuse for refusing to do their duty as required.
Let's be clear - there is no legal impediment for Elections BC to proceed - the big business coalition filed an extraordinarily late attempt to overturn the Fight HST petition just one day before it was filed - on June 29.
The big business organizations who all stand to benefit by gaining millions of dollars in HST revenue transferred from consumers to their pockets have never obtained nor even attempted to get a court injunction to stop the Initiative.
Failing that, Elections BC has no reason to block the next step - sending the draft Initiative petition legislation called the HST Extinguishment Act to a Select Standing Committee of the BC Legislature.
The Recall and Inititiative Act is extremely clear - if the petition is verified as having met the threshold, then " ... the chief electoral officer must send a copy of the petition and draft Bill to the select standing committee."
Not "may". Not "whenever he or she feels like it". Not "after business groups take a legal run at the petition" - the Act says the chief electoral offier "must" - no ifs ands or buts.
Fight HST Media Release
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER THWARTS DEMOCRACY BY RULING THAT HISTORIC FIGHT HST CITIZENS INITIATIVE
PETITION TO END HARMONIZED SALES TAX IS VALID, BUT HE WILL NOT ACT.
Fight HST to Launch Total Recall
Vancouver – In a stunning move riddled with suspected political interference, acting Chief Electoral Officer, Craig James, today said that the Fight HST Initiative to End the Harmonized Sales Tax in BC has successfully passed the required 10% threshold in all 85 ridings - but that he has decided not to act upon the results.
As a result, Fight HST leader, Initiative proponent and former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm announced the organization will launch a “total recall” campaign against all BC Liberal MLAs starting November 15.
According to the Initiative Act, a successful Initiative petition will result in the petition Bill being sent to a Standing Committee of the Legislature who may submit it to the Legislature for a vote, or send it back to the CEO with instructions to conduct a non-binding, province wide Initiative Vote.
But late today Craig James privately told Vander Zalm that Elections BC will not submit the successful petition to the Standing Committee until a final decision has been reached by the courts regarding a lawsuit by a big business coalition attempting to quash the petition.
Vander Zalm was furious with the decision and its implications.
“Craig James' refusal to submit the successful petition Bill to the Standing Committee means that he has effectively destroyed the democratic process,” Vander Zalm said. “James is opening the door for any group opposed to a Citizen Initiative in future to thwart the democratic will of the people simply by launching a challenge to that petition in court.”
“It is outrageous, and reeks of political interference by the government and their friends in big business, and we are not going to allow it,” fumed Vander Zalm.
“It is clear to even a casual observer that the government will use any means to get their way, including even the process adopted by Elections BC. It is time to clean out Victoria.”
“We are going to launch a total recall of the entire BC Liberal caucus, beginning on November 15. We will stagger the recalls so that maximum pressure is brought to bear on the government. They have lost their moral authority to govern. We need a new election and a new government,” said Vander Zalm.
Vander Zalm says Recalls will be designed to drive MLAs from office by marginalizing them their own communities so that they cannot carry out their duties, and the government cannot function.
“This is the worst kind of political meddling I have ever seen in all my political days. It challenges the credibility of the Chief Electoral Officer, and that of the entire organization of Elections BC. It must be stopped. This only strengthens our resolve to restore democracy in BC. And that starts with overturning the government starting on November 15.”
Vander Zalm says his group will also look at obtaining a court order to release the results of the petition. He says a court order may be the best way to get the CEO reverse his decision and to submit the results of the draft Bill to the Legislature.
Is Elections BC going to violate its own legislation and not announce results of Fight HST citizens Initiative petition today?
What the hell is going on at Elections BC?
That's the question I'm asking today as the deadline for the independent regulatory authority to announce the results of the Fight HST citizens Initiative petition approaches - and Elections BC says it will not issue a public statement.
Instead they will contact Fight HST and Initiative proponent Bill Vander Zalm [pictured with me above at our Fight HST launch rally April 6] to tell him what is going on with the petition signed by 705,643 voters.
At this time it is unclear what Elections BC will tell Vander Zalm - that the Initiative passed or failed - or most ominously, that they will not release the results!
That would presumably be because a coalition of big business HST supporters is going to court in an attempt to overturn the citizens Initiative.
If so, that would be outrageous.
Elections BC is the body responsible for authorizing and regulating the Initiative - as required by legislation.
Short of a court order there are no ground for Elections BC to fail to do its duty.
Stay tuned here and in the media as we learn what is happening.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
After losing the ability to send and receive email at 7:30 p.m. last night due to an apparent lightning strike in Edmonton at Telus server headquarters, I am tonight - guess what? Unable to access my email yet again.
My email was totally inaccessible from 7:30 p.m. Monday night till about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for me and no doubt tens of thousands of other Telus customers.
It then lurched to life on Telus Webmail only, then eventually started appearing to work on Outlook.
I say "appearing" because it turns out that not all email showed up on Outlook - some emails I've seen on Webmail still haven't shown up in my Outlook inbox.
But now everything is down - Telus Webmail and Outlook!
The message I just got when trying to access Webmail reads: "Login failed for some reason. Most likely your username or password was entered incorrectly."
The "some reason" or the "most likely" explanation is that Telus are dumbasses who can't fix their email system despite the multi-millions all of us Telus customers pay them - including the outrageous amount of money that CEO Darren Entwhistle makes.
In 2005 Entwhistle made - sit down first - $14 million in salary, bonuses and stock options!
Last year Entwhistle was paid just under $7 million in total.
For that kind of money just to the top dog I expect one hell of a lot better email service.
I also expect a significant refund on my Telus invoice for this month - but it will likely not be there - just like my missing goddamned emails!
- Photo credit - The Lazy Canadian
Saved - one woman's story about how Vancouver General Hospital's domestic violence program saved her life - and why it shouldn't be closed
Survivor says life was saved by domestic violence counselling now being eliminated at Vancouver General.
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday August 10, 2010
By Bill Tieleman
"Why shut the door on this domestic violence program? It's a matter of life and death."
- "Jane Smith," survivor
The woman calling me on the phone was understandably nervous -- but her tone was urgent.
Nervous because she is a survivor of domestic violence who needs her identity protected, even eight years after leaving her husband.
Urgent because the service that she believes saved her life is being closed -- the Vancouver General Hospital's domestic violence program.
It's a closure that women's support groups and social workers are calling "outrageous, shocking and absolutely brutal," but Jane Smith is even more devastating in her analysis.
"There are probably women going to be killed -- or commit suicide -- with taking away this program," Smith [not her real name] emotionally told me. "It's such a tragedy. There are women who need the domestic violence program."
So why is it disappearing?
Last week 24 Hours newspaper exclusively reported that a July 26 Vancouver Coastal Health Authority internal memo from senior managers to VGH emergency room physicians and staff that I obtained stated the 18 year program is being "reconfigured" and existing jobs there "realigned."
And while the provincial Health Authority spins that the VGH program is actually "expanding" to include adult abuse and neglect now mandated by the new provincial Adult Guardianship Act, the sad reality is that all out-patient domestic violence counselling is being eliminated.
Director told to 'reapply'
What's more, the program's highly respected director, master of social work Kathleen MacKay, has been told she must "reapply" for a job -- which will now only be half-time on domestic violence and half-time on adult abuse -- and that her administrative staff support position has been axed.
Vancouver Coastal insists that existing VGH outpatients will be "transitioned" to community counselling services -- but none of those women's domestic violence support groups have enough resources to deal with high existing demand, let alone take on 25 new cases weekly.
That's probably why Battered Women's Support Services and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter were not even consulted by Vancouver Coastal before the decision was made -- because the answer is so obvious.
The results are obvious too -- just ask Jane Smith, who called me after seeing the two 24 Hours stories.
"I don't know where people are going to go. I'm so blessed that I went through the program. It saved my life," she told me. "Kathleen MacKay makes you feel very safe, very secure. She knows how to talk to you, to lift you up."
'I feel like the luckiest person'
Smith didn't dwell on her own situation, but made clear it was terrible when she went to the VGH program after being abused.
"I was afraid he would kill me, get his gun and kill me," she said. "I was so frightened, like a little child. The emotional abuse was horrific."
"When someone gets violent, it's a scary place to be. When you have no one else to turn to and the person is violent and manipulative...," Smith said, her voice trailing off.
But fortunately she went to VGH.
"I feel like the luckiest person -- I've been given a second chance at life," Smith said. "I'm safe and I'm free, but there are women walking down the street who are afraid, who are intimidated."
"There are women waiting in line to get into programs," Smith says. "You feel like an ant when you first come in -- you're so beaten down. Then you're lifted up."
"Now I'm no longer alone. At last I can tell someone about this," she continued. "Kathleen helped me move on. In six months going through the program my fear was lifted."
"I was so scared before. Now I don't feel that fear that someone will kill me, follow me down the street." Smith said.
'We don't have resources': Battered Women's Support
Smith's experience makes it clear that B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon must intervene immediately and order Vancouver Coastal Health to retain this program. He cannot allow victims of domestic violence to be put at risk.
Existing support organizations for women are already under financial pressure and simply can't handle existing demand, let alone more cases.
"It's outrageous,” says Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Vancouver's Battered Women's Support Services. "No, we don't have the resources -- we have 100 women on a waitlist right now for counseling."
MacDougall said BWSS has 50 new cases of domestic violence every week and no excess capacity to take on extra work now done by the VGH program, which she called an "incredible resource."
Added Rape Relief spokesperson Daisy Kler: "It's a very crucial service for women. There are not enough of these programs and to lose one -- we're very concerned. The problem is offloading services."
No cuts at VGH, claims Vancouver Coastal Health
The B.C. Association of Social Workers echoes Jane Smith's deep worries about women losing support if the VGH program is cut.
"We're very concerned they're closing a program that sees so many people -- 20 to 25 a week -- and there's nowhere else for them to go," Linda Korbin, BCASW executive director, told me.
"Who will die or suffer significant injuries as the result of the program closure?" Korbin asked.
And New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix says Vancouver Coastal is closing a program "that meets community needs" at a time when non-profits have suffered cuts themselves.
"It's clearly the wrong decision, the wrong approach," Dix said. "This program has long been recognized and is the right way to go."
But despite the concerns, Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Anna Marie D'Angelo strongly denies the VGH program is being eliminated or the budget cut, instead saying it was "expanding" to also cover adult abuse.
"There's actually no cut in service. We increased the scope to meet the needs of patients," D'Angelo said in an interview last week.
D'Angelo noted that while the outpatient counselling will end, there will still be five full-time social workers at VGH.
"We understand that change is difficult for some people," she said.
It would be easy to simply target Vancouver Coastal Health Authority as the problem -- too easy.
The reality is that the provincial government is in charge of health care in B.C. -- politicians, not bureaucrats, are the ones responsible for delivering the service people need -- like the VGH domestic violence program.
Funding for adult abuse is important too. But when this government finds $563 million for a new roof and renovations at B.C. Place and $3.3 billion for a new Port Mann Bridge, don't tell me it won't pay a pittance to ensure vulnerable women escape violent relationships.
Instead, tell Health Minister Falcon to keep the VGH domestic violence program -- before it's too late.
Give other women like Jane Smith the chance to triumph over abuse by providing the resources they desperately need.
Friday, August 06, 2010
VGH domestic violence program closure called "outrageous" - two women's support groups were never consulted
24 hours exclusive
Battered Women’s Support Services and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter strongly oppose closure of Vancouver General Hospital's domestic violence program
BC Association of Social Workers urges reversing decision by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Two groups that support women victims of domestic violence say they were not consulted about closing Vancouver General Hospital’s existing domestic violence program, with one calling it “outrageous”.
And both Battered Women’s Support Services and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter say no consultation occurred despite an internal Vancouver Coastal Health Authority memo obtained exclusively by 24 hours that says existing VGH outpatients will be “transitioned” to community counseling services.
“It’s outrageous,” Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS executive director said Thursday. “No, we don’t have the resources – we have 100 women on a waitlist right now for counseling.”
MacDougall said BWSS has 50 new cases of domestic violence weekly and no excess capacity to take on additional work currently done by the VGH program, which she called an “incredible resource”.
Vancouver Coastal spokesperson Anna Marie D’Angelo said Thursday that “we do not consult with external agencies when making these types of changes” because unionized positions are impacted.
D’Angelo denied the program was closing, instead saying Tuesday it was “expanding” to also cover adult abuse.
But D’ Angelo admitted VGH outpatient counseling will end, with community groups picking up that work, that current program director Kathleen MacKay must “reapply” for a new position and that a support position will be eliminated.
Rape Relief spokesperson Daisy Kler said Thursday she learned of the VGH decision by reading a 24 hours story Wednesday.
“It’s a very crucial service for women – there are not enough of these programs and to lose one – we’re very concerned,” Kler said.
The B.C. Association of Social Workers calls the decision - outlined in a July 26 Vancouver Coastal internal memo – “shocking” and “brutal”.
“Who will die or suffer significant injuries as the result of the program closure?” BCASW Executive Director Linda Korbin asked Wednesday.
In a news release Korbin says the BCASW is urging Vancouver Coastal to restore the domestic violence program at VGH and seek other funding for additional adult abuse services.
"The program, which has been operating as an Emergency based program since 1992 and as an outpatient clinic for ten years, has served hundreds of clients who have been referred from hospital, community physicians, psychiatrists and community agencies, including transition houses," the release states.
"Currently the program serves 20 to 25 people per week.
There is no evidence that community domestic violence programs have the capacity to absorb these victims of abuse into their caseloads, or that there are any alternate options for timely help for the individuals and their children who are being served by this highly respected program."
NOTE: This is a longer and edited version of the story that ran in 24 hours newspaper Friday
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Where did the Vancouver Sun's Angus Reid poll go that shows BC Liberals would lose even by replacing Gordon Campbell with Carole Taylor?
The Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has the BC NDP at 48% versus the BC Liberals at just 27% and the Green Party at 13% - no BC Conservative Party numbers are given but they were recently noted at 7%.
Replacing the unpopular Premier Gordon Campbell with either former BC Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor or Surrey Mayor Diane Watts would boost the party's fortunes by 7% to 34% - but the NDP would still win - with 44% against Watts and 42% against Taylor, the poll says.
Repeal the HST anyone?
ORIGINAL POSTING BELOW
It's a mystery right now.
The Vancouver Sun - according to Google News, CKNW radio AM 980 newscasts and its own website - has a story about how replacing BC Premier Gordon Campbell would "boost" the BC Liberal Party's fortunes - but the story apparently says that even media darling Carole Taylor and Surrey Mayor Diane Watts would lose the next election to the New Democrats under leader Carole James.
Interesting poll - and one that has been expected from Angus Reid Public Opinion for some time.
But tonight, after posting the story online, the Vancouver Sun appears to have pulled the story - you just can't find it as of 9 p.m. even though the Chad Skelton story was posted 6 hours.
Inquiring minds want to know - did the Sun accidentally post the story and then remove it prior to Friday's newsprint version of the paper arriving on doorsteps? Was there a mistake in the story?
What's clear is that you can't find the story anywhere - including the Angus Reid website.
And what do the polling results mean for BC's embattled premier? Would Taylor or Watts volunteer for a suicide run or would Campbell stay at the helm of the quickly sinking ship?
Keep checking the Vancouver Sun for details - or buy a paper in the morning - it must be front page news!
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
24 hours exclusive
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority nixes VGH domestic violence program
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Vancouver General Hospital’s existing domestic violence program is being eliminated in a move called “shocking” and “brutal” by critics – but the health authority responsible insists the changes detailed in an internal memo obtained exclusively by 24 hours are actually an expansion of services.
In a July 26 memo to VGH emergency room physicians and staff, senior Vancouver Coastal Health managers say the program is being “reconfigured” and existing jobs there “realigned” to deal with adult abuse and neglect in addition to domestic violence.
But the B.C. Association of Social Workers says the move is “shocking” and “brutal” while New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix calls it “the wrong decision” that will hurt those in need.
“It’s absolutely brutal,” said Linda Korbin, BCASW executive director. “We’re very concerned they’re closing a program that sees so many people – 20 to 25 a week – and there’s nowhere else for them to go.”
But Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Anna Marie D’Angelo denies the program is being eliminated or the budget cut.
“There’s actually no cut in service. We increased the scope to meet the needs of patients,” D’ Angelo said Tuesday.
D’ Angelo admitted that long-time program director Kathleen MacKay, a social worker, must “re-apply” for a new position that includes dealing with adult abuse.
D’ Angelo added that an administrative position in the program will be eliminated and outpatient counseling at VGH will end, with community groups expected to offer those services.
Korbin said there had been no consultation process regarding ending the 18 year program operating out of the VGH emergency room.
Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Dix said the VCH memo says existing patients will “transition” to “similar counseling services available in the community” but existing non-profit organizations are already suffering cuts themselves.
“It’s clearly the wrong decision, the wrong approach,” Dix said. “This program has long been recognized and is the right way to go.”
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION not published in 24 hours
Korbin said the program is greatly needed.
“It’s important to have quick and safe access to professional staff,” she said.
D’ Angelo said the domestic violence program position was funded half by VGH and half by Providence Health Care and in the future VGH will fund a full time position with the new adult abuse duties added to domestic violence. The Providence funding for a half-time position remains, she said, but no decision has yet been made on how it will be used.
D' Angelo was unable to provide information on which community groups, if any, who will be asked to take over counselling services had been consulted prior to the decision to end the existing program. She added that there are five other social workers at VGH providing 24-hour services.
Dix warned that ending the program will force more people into emergency rooms as a result, something he says is happening in multiple locations at the direction of Health Minister Kevin Falcon.