Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things get very complicated if HST petition passes

Even if the anti-HST initiative gets the required number of signatures, there is no guarantee the tax is dead.
The initiative process isn't binding on government. Although it's hard to see how the Liberals could simply ignore a successful campaign.
The anti-HST forces reported hitting another milestone this week. They have reached the required threshold in 83 of 85 provincial constituencies, with six weeks to go in their drive.
If they get the signatures of 10 per cent of eligible voters in every riding - which looks highly likely - the process hits the next stage.
Here's how it works.
The petitions have to be submitted to Elections B.C. by July 5. The agency has six weeks to verify the names and rule that the initiative succeeded or failed. (The six previous efforts all failed.)
That could take until Aug. 16.
If the initiative is successful, the petition and a draft bill eliminating the HST go to the legislative initiatives committee of the legislature. That's made up of four New Democrats and six Liberals. It's chaired by Kamloops Liberal MLA Terry Lake; more than 10,000 people have signed the petition in his riding.
The committee has to meet within 30 days and reach a decision within 90 days - say by mid-November.
It has two options. It can send the bill to kill the HST to the legislature. It could be debated in the fall, or put off until next spring.
Or it can send the issue back to Elections B.C. for a province-wide vote. That would be held Sept. 24, 2011.
The vote is no sure thing. The initiative legislation requires support from 50 per cent of registered voters province-wide and 50 per cent of registered voters in two-thirds of ridings.
That's a tough test. The requirement is a majority of registered voters, not just of those who participate. In the 2009 election, there were three million registered voters in the province; only 1.65 million people actually cast ballots.
If it does pass, then the bill to kill the HST has to be introduced in the legislature.
Note that the requirement in both cases is only that the bill be introduced, not that it be passed. The Liberals could decide to amend or defeat it. Or to stall.
The political calculations must be giving strategists terrible headaches.
Start with the most basic question - whether to accept the initiative as a legitimate expression of the public will and eliminate the HST.
Business would be irked. The province wouldn't get the $1.6 billion over three years the federal government is paying to encourage adoption of the tax. And the Liberals would be dealt a public rebuke.
All with no guarantee voters would be forgiving in 2013 when the next election rolls around.
The temptation might be to stick with the tax.
The Liberals might be considering forcing a provincial vote on the initiative and hope it fails. But that would anger the people who oppose the tax.
And if the initiative passes in the vote, the government would have even less time before the next election to try to repair the damage.
It gets more complicated, because the anti-HST forces don't have to sit quietly by and wait for the government to decide.
They are already talking about "Recall in the Fall" if the government doesn't respond to the campaign by killing the tax. It takes signatures from 40 per cent of registered voters to recall an MLA and force a byelection.
Given the organization in place, that seems possible in many ridings. In Lake's riding, for example, 32 per cent of people have already signed the anti-HST petition.
There are many twists, turns and calculations ahead. So far, the Liberals show no sign of changing direction on the tax.
But the box is growing tighter each day. And none of the exits look appealing.
Footnote: Premier Gordon Campbell defended the tax Monday in the legislature, maintaining it would create jobs and opportunities for future generations. The problem is that he is effectively telling a majority of British Columbians that he is smarter than they are.


DPL said...

Gordo was telling us all in question Period today( Tuesday) that when the numbers are there, next step would be the committee( he sort of fails to mention the Liberals have a majority in the committee, then into the Leg. for more delays, then a referendum etc etc. I guess he figures they can drag it out for eons. What the people want is of no concern of his. I was surprised to see he made it back into town. Must have used up all his air miles . BY the way the NO HST as of today had one riding under the 10 percent and Bill VanDerZam figured that will be reached later today

cherylb said...

Talk about a campaign of misinformation! Gordo tries to tell us that the HST will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in investment in BC. Let's ask the Maritimes how many hundreds of thousands of jobs their HST has brought them; because we all know they are the most prosperous part of the country (sarcasm). Also, while we're at it, let's ask all those big business employers we have here (you know, the ones who provide employment to millions of us), how many billions of dollars they have invested due to the tax cuts instituted by the BC Libs already since they took power? What's that you say? How can small and medium-sized business be the largest employers? Gordo has assured us that big business is our saviour. Misinformation, my foot. The BC Libs are spreading the biggest BS around!

Anonymous said...

I actually hope the Campbell Liberals do drag this thing out, contrary to the wishes of British Columbians. That way the double cross will be fresh in our minds come election time. But I'm betting they won't - too many Liberal back benchers haven't earned their pensions yet, and if there's one thing that will give them the courage to speak up to the premier (behind closed doors of course) it's the fear of being dumped before the entitlements kick in, either sooner by recall or later at election time.

Raymond Graham

Leah said...

Whether the HST is rescinded or not, as far as I'm concerned it's "recall in the fall." Campbell has proven too many times that he absolutely cannot, and should not be trusted.

Recall, recall, recall...while we still have traces of BC Hydro, ICBC and BCLC left. Those will be sold off to private interests like they've done in Ontario if he remains. That leaves zero crown corporations in BC, and no help for the public coffers to help pay for some of the programs that have been left...thus far.

Combine that with the czarette who has been hired to produce the report with the desired outcome; stating hospitals must now be privatized (as she has done in the past)...and the face of BC is forever gone. Can't happen you say? Ask yourself why hundreds of millions have been spent "upgrading" hospitals (instead of the funds actually being spent on patient care, imagine that...) then remember he upgrades everything at taxpayer expense, then sells it for a song to his buddies in big business.

He's gotta go...I don't care how, the sooner the better.

Norman Farrell said...

I don't expect Campbell to leave with any more grace than he has ruled with so far. That means, he'll be kicking and screaming with his fingernails gouging the door frame of the Premier's office as they drag him away.

They delayed the BCR Corruption Trial for years, kicking the HST petition to the curb is much easier. As George Bush proved, having 80% of the people opposed doesn't necessarily change much.

It is the recall campaign that will bring an end to BC Liberals. Voters tend to punish entire parties when they finally decide that enough is enough. The leaders will go off to comfortable sinecures and the Liberal backbenchers will wonder what might have been if someone had spoken up sooner.