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.