B.C.'s HST committee delays petition decision

A decision on the fate of B.C.'s HST petition has been postponed after a legislative committee voted Wednesday to seek more information on its options.
NDP MLA Rob Fleming said the intiative petition's draft legislation to repeal the HST should have been sent immediately to the legislature for a free vote. ((CBC))

A decision on the fate of B.C.'s HST petition has been postponed after a legislative committee voted Wednesday to seek more information on its options.

The Liberal-dominated committee ultimately has two courses of action: draft a bill to scrap the HST and put it before the house, or call for a province-wide "initiative vote" — a non-binding referendum — in September 2011.

The 10-member committee voted to get more information from B.C.'s chief electoral officer on the cost of a referendum and other details about how such a vote would proceed.

Anti-HST petition organizer Chris Delaney, who attended the meeting as an observer, said later that Liberal MLAs risk being the target of recall campaigns this fall if the committee opts to send the petition to a referendum.

The committee made political history when it met for the first time Wednesday afternoon in Victoria to decide what to do with former premier Bill Vander Zalm's anti-HST petition and the draft legislation it contained.

NDP minds made up

The committee has never met before because no petition carried out under B.C.'s Initiatives Act had ever succeeded in meeting the threshold of 10 per cent of voters' signatures in all 85 provincial ridings. 

Before the meeting, NDP MLA Rob Fleming said his party members have already made up their mind how they will vote.

"We'll be looking for a way to correct course and have democracy play a role and allow ordinary British Columbians to speak through their elected representatives on their feelings about the HST," Fleming said. "And that means getting it to the house as quickly as possible."

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm has led the fight to repeal B.C.'s HST. ((Canadian Press))
But the six Liberal government MLAs held sway and delayed the decision.

The committee meets again Monday.

Vander Zalm spearheaded the anti-HST petition, collecting more than half a million signatures backing a draft bill to roll back the tax.

The 12 per cent HST was rolled out by the Liberal government in July to replace the seven per cent PST and five per cent GST in B.C.