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Committee delays decision on HST petition

The British Columbia committee that will decide what to do about the successful anti-HST petition delayed making a decision today while it seeks more information about its two options.

“We want to make sure that we make an informed decision, rather than coming to the very first meeting with your mind made up, which is what the NDP members did,” said Terry Lake, the Liberal MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson who was elected chair of the committee.

The select standing committee on legislative initiatives, which met for the first time in 16 years to consider the province's first succesful initiative, may choose to forward the question of repealing the HST to the legislative assembly or recommend that it be put to a referendum.

The NDP's Jenny Kwan made a motion to forward the matter to the legislature, but Liberals used their majority on the committee to adjourn that motion so the committee could seek more information on both options from acting chief electoral officer Craig James.

The committee voted to meet again at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 13.

“I think the government's in chaos at the moment,” said Kwan. “They don't know what to do.”

The quickest route to accountability would be to allow MLAs in the legislature to do the will of their constituents, she said. “Let's get on with it.”

The committee met because some 557,000 people signed petitions to repeal the HST, said Lake. “Last time I checked that wasn't a majority of British Columbians,” he said. “An initiative vote is certainly one way to make sure every British Columbian has an opportunity to have a voice, not just 18.6 percent of them.”

The threshold for success was 10 percent of eligible voters in each of the province's 85 constituencies. The petition to repeal the HST was the first to meet that threshold since the initiative laws were made 16 years ago.

Petition organizer Chris Delaney, former Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom and Green Party leader Jane Sterk were among those in the public gallery for the meeting.

“The committee's a joke, let's face it,” said Delaney. He wants the matter to go directly to the legislature for a vote, he said. “The Liberals are obviously going to go to an initiative vote, that's what they want to do . . . That means recalls in November.”

Sterk said her party supports consumption taxes, but not the HST. The province has given away its power to raise sales taxes on things it wants to discourage and drop them on things it wants to encourage, she said.

Lekstrom said the Liberal government is in a tough position. While premier Gordon Campbell has done much for the province, he said, “On this issue it is very clear he is on a different side than the public is.”

On July 1 the 12 percent HST replaced the five percent GST and seven percent PST in the province.

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

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