B.C. HST petition verified but stalled

Elections BC has verified the official anti-HST petition submitted by the province's Fight HST campaign, according to former premier Bill Vander Zalm.

However, he said, the province's chief electoral officer has decided not to act on the petition pending the outcome of a case before the courts.

"I am terribly upset," an angry Vander Zalm told a group of supporters gathered at his outdoor news conference in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday night.

"A lot of wonderful people throughout this province worked very hard for democracy and made it happen. And now, one government, one bureaucrat says they can stop it all. They can stop the will of the people. It is ridiculous."

The petition demands that the government submit a bill to the legislature reversing the harmonized sales tax legislation.

A group of businesses representing some of B.C.'s biggest industries filed a judicial review of the anti-HST petition in June. The challenge will require a judge to determine whether the draft bill is constitutionally valid and suitable for introduction to the legislature.

Vander Zalm said Wednesday that the review is scheduled to take place the week of Aug. 16.

The group asking for the judicial review includes the Council of Forest Industries, the Mining Association of B.C., the Coast Forest Products Association and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

"No one will stand for it, we won't stand for it," Vander Zalm said, regarding the chief electoral officer's decision. "I am sure the people of B.C. throughout the province, wherever, are behind us."

Vander Zalm and other campaign leaders recruited thousands of canvassing volunteers across B.C. earlier this year. They collected more than 700,000 names before turning in the document to Elections BC at the end of June for verification.

Government denies involvement

The provincial NDP, which had begun its own unofficial petition earlier, joined forces with Vander Zalm's campaign.

"I'm angry that the B.C. Liberals and a few of their friends can stall off democracy, thwart the public voice from being heard after such an unprecedented public process," said NDP leader Carole James after hearing Vander Zalm's announcement.

James said she was not blaming Elections BC or the acting chief electoral officer, Craig James, but pointed a finger at the HST-supporting business leaders who launched the court action.

B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said the government had nothing to do with the electoral officer's action.

"I cannot speak to the reasons behind the decision by the chief electoral officer not to immediately present this petition," said Hansen. "That is certainly not something we put to him in any way, shape or form."

The petition needed to garner valid signatures from at least 10 per cent of voters in each of the province's 85 ridings.

They did reach the goal officially, but that was the only happy news Vander Zalm had for his supporters Wednesday.

The B.C. legislature passed the HST bill at the end of March and the legislation came into effect July 1. It blends the seven per cent provincial sales tax with the five per cent federal goods and services tax.

External Links

Fight HST website
Fight HST website
Elections BC: HST Citizens Initiative