Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BC Liberals, big business & Elections BC defy the people's will on Fight HST petition

Fight HST lawyer Joe Arvay with Bill Tieleman, Bill Vander Zalm & Chris Delaney

Look Who's Derailing Democracy in BC

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday August 17, 2010

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

It's hard to underestimate the contempt and disdain B.C. Liberal MLAs have for the voters of this province.

But Eric Foster tries pretty darn hard to make it clear -- he knows better than you do what's best for the province -- so butt out!

What a concept. Elected representatives actually doing what the people who voted them into office want done, or lose their jobs.

Instead Vernon-Monashee MLA Foster and his B.C. Liberal colleagues are doing everything they can to overturn the will of the people.

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.
Just look at the seven years since the B.C. Legislature was raided and subsequent political corruption charges were laid against David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi in a trial that resumes September 13.

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
to send the initiative to the committee and he wouldn't accept it from Vander Zalm.

"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.


Grant G said...

I think you better read this story Bill T....And pass it on to Joe Arvay...Let`s just say it`s the smoking gun!



Anonymous said...

Rereading the HST Brochure (the one we were gonna get then weren't gonna get) noticed it says the following:


Hmmm. Meaning the provincial government. Anyways, read the brochure if you haven't seen it:

All kinds of little nuggets like the above in it.

Anonymous said...

“What a concept. Elected representatives actually doing what the people who voted them into office want done, or lose their jobs.” – Bill Tieleman.

I agree Bill, that is quite a concept. Do not decrease programs or spending, after all, the people do not want that. And of course, do not raise taxes, because after all, the people do not want that either. Instead simply make governing a giant top 40 popularity contest and always do what makes the people happy.

That is such a great concept Bill, and so simple.

You should put your money where your mouth is and run for office and show us all how it is done.

Anonymous said...

The people didn't want Campbell to sell the BC Rail either. We didn't want our rivers sold. Campbell, gave his useless self a 53% salary hike, and a $2 million per year pension, isn't too shabby either. We didn't want, filthy hospitals, full of super bugs, in Nanaimo Hospital 10 patients died from it. Campbell's stupidity, trying to run hospitals as a business, ended up being 5x, more costly. What a dammed, chaotic mess, that was. We did not want our assets and natural resources, stolen from us and sold. Campbell has cost, BC mill workers, 30,000 job losses. Every time a mill closes in BC, another one opens in China. You know, where our raw logs go. Campbell, is solely responsible for, putting BC into the billions of debt. He now, has plans to pollute, what is left of this province.

S Garry said...

Pro or con-HST, the way such a significant revenue change was brought in wasn't right. I commend the citizens of B.C. in their initiative. I hope the Recall works, too. Give 'em a good scare. It's too bad the same thing can't be done federally. We've been trying to get something like that going (see www.democracyparty.ca), to give Canadians the right to decide the biggest issues, from taxes to establishing new human rights to defence to the environment to pot, left-wing or right-wing, as they deem fit. It's ordinary Canadians' taxes that pay for everything anyway, so why not? A drop in the bucket of your 700,000 signatures is all we need (250) to register the party across the country. Then we need one candidate, but we already have two set to go. If you're still in the mood after this big fight, give us a look.