Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Committee sends HST to province-wide vote

British Columbians will be asked in September 2011 in a non-binding vote whether they support repealing the harmonized sales tax, following a legislative committee's decision today.

The decision upset former premier Bill Vander Zalm who headed the initiative petition drive that saw some 700,000 people asking for the HST to be repealed.

The select standing committee on legislative initiatives voted to refer the succesful initiative petition to the chief electoral officer to hold a province wide vote.

When it became clear Liberal members of the committee were going to defeat an NDP motion to put the matter to the legislature for a vote, Vander Zalm stormed out of the public gallery.

“This whole thing is the biggest scam I ever witnessed in my whole life,” said Vander Zalm.

He said he would support a real referendum where winning required a simple majority and the result was binding. Instead the vote in B.C. will require the support of 50 percent of registered voters and the government will not be bound to repeal the HST.

“They talk about a referendum and people think it's a real democratic referendum. They don't know it's a set up,” he said.

Vander Zalm said he and his supporters will put their energy into recalling Liberal MLAs. “I want to recall all those guys. They're just a bunch of sheep. They're not even good followers. They're crazy.”

He said he will make an announcement next week with the specifics of when they will start the recall campaigns, how many people they will target and who they will be.

Earlier in the meeting Elections B.C. representatives, assistant chief electoral officer Anton Boegman and executive director in charge of electoral finance and corporate administration Nola Western, answered questions from committee members.

NDP members focussed on how much of a role the Liberal cabinet will have in setting the question on the ballot and organizing the vote. Decisions will include whether to have an election-style vote with ballot boxes or a mail-in vote as was done with the referendum on treaty negotiations.

“When does consultation become interference?” asked NDP MLA Mike Farnworth.

Boegman said the law is silent on the question, but that in the interest of having a process that is free of partisanship, Elections B.C. should take the lead. “Elections B.C.'s position is the question should be developed by the chief electoral officer.”

NDP MLA Jenny Kwan said the government needs to commit to holding a vote that is free of political interference. “The government, the cabinet effectively, could interfere politically with respect to the referendum process in the sense that the question that's to be formulated could well be determined by the cabinet.”

Liberal MLA and committee chair Terry Lake said Elections B.C. was clear they should lead the process and that only the opposition members were suggesting cabinet and the government would be involved.

“People voted, or at least signed a petition, throughout this province in order to have a say, and now we're giving them that say,” he said.

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Premier Gordon Campbell has said that if a majority of people who vote on the question want to get rid of the HST, he will act on that. "A majority at the ballot box is something that makes a lot of sense to everybody," he told reporters, acknowledging that the legislation sets the bar higher than that.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus