Friday, May 28, 2010

HST fighters claim victory across B.C. -- Morning Star News

Updated: May 28, 2010 2:22 PM

They're over the top.

Fight HST organizers say they now have the 10 per cent of signatures in all 85 B.C. ridings needed for their citizens' initiative against the harmonized sales tax to succeed – with more than a month to spare.

"This is unprecedented," campaign leader and former premier Bill Vander Zalm said Friday. "It's never been done before. And it sends a clear message to government."

Organizers aim to force the B.C. Liberals to dismantle the 12 per cent tax, which on July 1 replaces the provincial sales tax and federal GST.

Vander Zalm said the petition now has the signatures of between 550,000 and 600,000 B.C. voters.

The 90-day campaign still has until July 5 before the completed petition needs to be submitted for verification by Elections BC.

If indeed it is signed by the minimum 10 per cent of registered voters in each riding, it will have made history – no previous initiative campaign has cleared the threshold.

Many signatures are expected to be disqualified for various reasons, so campaigners have set a higher target of signing up 15 per cent of voters in each riding – a big buffer to ensure success.

"We'll continue on aggressively to collect as much as we can," Vander Zalm said.

"The bigger the number, the clearer the message."

At the last official count on May 24, there were still numerous Lower Mainland ridings – mainly in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, the Tri-Cities and the North Shore – where the signature count was below 15 per cent.

Vander Zalm said canvassers will concentrate on those areas.

With victory now expected on the signature front, attention has shifted to the government's response.

"They could walk into the House tomorrow and cancel the whole thing," said Vander Zalm, adding he doesn't expect that will happen.

Instead, he anticipates the government will stall as long as possible, sending his proposed legislation to kill the HST to a legislative committee first for review.

The province would attempt to use that venue to explain why backtracking on the merged tax is not practicable or desirable.

It could then allow the bill to be introduced in the Legislature but use the Liberal majority to defeat it.

Vander Zalm said that would spark recall campaigns against government MLAs that could get underway as early as November.

The other option for the Liberals is to send the issue to a non-binding provincial referendum, which would not take place until September of 2011.

Vander Zalm said that would be a blatant delay tactic that would also send recall forces into action.

"Sending it to a referendum means the taxpayers are going to cough up big bucks to pay for it," he said. "If they don't deal with it in the Legislature, we're going to go to recall."

Vander Zalm denied he's interested in being part of any new political party that forms in response to voter anger over the imposition of the HST.

"Obviously there will be a third party come out of this, there's no doubt about that," he said. "But I don't want to get involved in that."


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.