Anti-HST leader launches recall campaign

Anti-HST activists in B.C. say now that their first petition is nearly complete, they'll launch a recall campaign targeting 24 of the governing B.C. Liberals' most vulnerable MLAs.
Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm says the B.C. government should kill the HST now that his petition has collected more the twice the required number of signatures. ((CBC))

Anti-HST activists in B.C. say now that their first petition is nearly complete, they'll launch a recall campaign targeting 24 of the governing B.C. Liberals' most vulnerable MLAs.

Campaign leader and former premier Bill Vander Zalm said supporters have already collected 670,000 signatures on the "Fight HST" petition, which is aimed at overturning the HST legislation.

Vander Zalm said he plans to deliver the petition to Elections B.C. for verification of the signatures on July 5. If the petition is verified, it will go to a legislative committee, which can either recommend a provincewide vote on the proposed repeal of the tax or send the proposal directly to the house for a vote.

 

Vander Zalm's 'hit list'

 

  • John Slater, Boundary-Similkameen.
  • Pat Pimm, Peace River North.
  • Donna Barnette, Cariboo Chilcotin.
  • George Abbott, Shuswap.
  • Terry Lake, Kamloops North.
  • Bill Bennett, Kootenay East.
  • Ida Chong, Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
  • Ron Cantelon, Parksville-Qualicum.
  • Bill Barisoff, Penticton.
  • Murray Coell, Saanich North.
  • Gordon Hogg, Surrey-Whiterock.
  • Barry Penner, Chilliwack-Hope.
  • Norm Letnik, Kelowna-Lake Country.
  • Ben Stewart, Kelowna-Westside.
  • Steve Thomson, Kelowna-Mission.
  • Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee.
  • Kash Heed, Vancouver-Fraserview.
  • Kevin Kruger, Kamloops South.
  • Richard Lee, Burnaby North.
  • John Les, Chilliwack.
  • Don McRae, Comox Valley.
  • John Rustad, Nechako Lakes.
  • Mary Polak, Langley.
  • Pat Bell, Prince George-Mackenzie.

But in the meantime, since the government still isn't backing down on its plan to launch the 12 per cent tax July 1, Vander Zalm said he is  turning his attention to trying to recall vulnerable Liberal MLAs to pressure the government to repeal the harmonized sales tax.

"Even with 700,000 people in this province … telling the premier they won't take it anymore, he still ignores the message."

Vander Zalm said his "HST hit list"  is made up of MLAs from ridings where the petition campaign collected signatures from at least 25 per cent of registered voters.

One resignation already

Vander Zalm said rather than try to target all 24 MLAs at once, the campaign will target particular MLAs.

"We haven't yet decided which ones will be recalled first, or how many. Our sense is that we will recall one or two at a time, so as not to bring down the government, but to pressure them to repeal the HST.

"We want these MLAs to pressure their government to listen to them, or risk losing them in a recall."

Vander Zalm said he originally considered targeting Campbell but thought he was likely to retire anyway before the next election. Organizers felt it would be a waste of time and resources.

Rural ridings where opposition to the new tax is strongest are considered to be the most vulnerable to a recall campaign.

But one northern B.C. MLA who is no longer on Vander Zalm's list is former energy minister Blair Lekstrom, whose surprise resignation from the party two weeks ago rocked B.C. Liberals.

Lekstrom, who represents Peace River South, said he personally believes the HST will be good for B.C. economically, but the public opposition to the tax is so strong in his riding he can't support its implementation.

40 per cent of voters required

Recalling any MLAs may prove more difficult than the petition campaign, which required the volunteers to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the province's 85 ridings.

While that was hard enough, for the recall campaign the volunteers will have to start from scratch again, collecting signatures from 40 per cent of eligible voters in the riding of each MLA they are targeting.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell acknowledged that it appears the anti-HST petition will meet its target, but says he has no plans to withdraw the legislation. ((CBC))
And under the province's recall legislation, the recall efforts can't officially start until 18 months after the last provincial election, meaning November 2010, and organizers will have only 60 days to collect signatures once they start.

Vander Zalm said there are also advantages to the recall legislation over the initiative legislation, which governed the first petition.

"First of all, recall is binding and is determined by the chief electoral officer after validating a successful recall petition," he said in a statement Thursday. "The government has no say in the matter.

"Secondly, there are no limits on how many times a recall may be conducted in the same riding. This gives us the ability to immediately repeat the process if needed until the MLA is removed from office. It's going to be very exciting."

No recalls successful yet

Since B.C.'s recall legislation was first passed, 20 campaigns have been launched to recall MLAs. In 19 cases they failed to collect enough signatures, and in one case the MLA resigned before the verification process was completed by Elections B.C.

According to Elections B.C., the province's Recall and Initiative Act is unique in Canada. No other province or territory has a system for removing elected representatives from office between elections.

Standings in the house are: 48 Liberals, 35 New Democrats, two independents.