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Anti-HST petition can go ahead: Supreme Court

The HST petition can go ahead to the legislature, Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

In the judgment, Chief Justice Bauman wrote:

[1] On 4 February 2010, the Chief Electoral Officer for British Columbia declared that William Vander Zalm’s “An Initiative to end the harmonized sales tax (HST)” (the “Initiative Petition”) had met the requirements for an acceptable petition prescribed by s. 3 of the Recall and Initative Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 398 [RIA].

[2] After it successfully passed the threshold set by s. 7 of the RIA, Premier Gordon Campbell called the Initiative Petition “a victory for democracy”, no doubt the case where over 700,000 registered voters signed the petition within the relatively brief time frame set by the RIA.

[3] The petitioners (an alliance of business groups in British Columbia) say that this “victory for democracy” is founded on a petition which should not have been approved in principle by the Chief Electoral Officer (the “CEO”) under the RIA. The petitioners bring this application for judicial review and seek an order quashing the approval of the CEO and an order setting aside the Initiative Petition as being null and void.

[4] The issue then squarely arises: Does this exercise in grassroots democracy founder on a strict interpretation of the legal requirements which must be met to set it in motion under the RIA?

[5] I have concluded that it does not, that the Initiative Petition complies with the spirit and letter of the requirements under the RIA on a proper legal construction of those requirements and that the CEO was correct in his decision approving it under the legislation.

In the rest of the judgment, Chief Justice Bauman raised and dismissed the arguments of the six businessmen and the groups they represent: The Council of Forest Industries, the Mining Association of British Columbia, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Western Convenience Stores Association, the Coast Forest Products Association, and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

He also found the anti-HST draft legislation acceptable, with "clear and unambiguous" wording. And he concluded:

[44] In the result I would not give effect to any of the petitioners’ submissions, and I dismiss this application. In the circumstances of the parties’ positions in these proceedings, weighing the balance of convenience and the fact that Mr. Vander Zalm has been successful in the Initiative Petition and its defence in this Court, I would respectfully ask that the Chief Electoral Officer perform his remaining duties under the Recall and Initiative Act forthwith.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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