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One Way We Can Say 'No!' to the HST

Initiative against Harmonized Sales Tax could force BC Liberals to drop it.

Bill Tieleman 18 Aug

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

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Premier Campbell, Finance Minister Hansen rolling out the HST.

"Never relinquish the initiative". -- Charles de Gaulle

Wow! My Facebook protest group NO BC HST now has over 90,000 members and rising fast!

Thanks to 24 hours, The Tyee readers and others signing up, that makes it one of the largest Facebook groups in B.C., and likely the biggest protest group in the province.

And with good reason -- the Harmonized Sales Tax will add a 7 per cent tax to a long list of goods and services currently not subject to the Provincial Sales Tax -- only the 5 per cent GST.

But if the 12 per cent HST is implemented in July 2010, you'll pay 7 per cent more on everything from haircuts to restaurant food to office rent to funerals to newly-built homes! And the $1.9 billion a year raised all goes to big business -- none to public services.

Last week I wrote that the surest way to block Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen's HST plan is by recalling enough B.C. Liberal MLAs that they would lose their Legislative majority.

But something else could stop the HST -- the B.C. Initiative process.

The beauty of an initiative against HST

It's not foolproof or simple. However, an Initiative can start immediately, while recall can't begin until 18 months after the election.

And while recall demands collecting the signatures of 40 per cent of registered voters in that riding during the last election in just 60 days, an initiative is easier.

Initiatives require the signatures of just 10 per cent of all registered voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings over 90 days -- much simpler than recall.

The problem with the Initiative process is that while the public can force a piece of legislation to be introduced and debated in the Legislature, an Initiative vote could be delayed until September 2011 and there is no obligation on the B.C. Liberal majority to actually pass the bill.

However, if enough voters signed up to make the initiative legal under Elections B.C. rules, the B.C. Liberals would be committing political suicide if they refused to introduce it sooner or defeated the No BC HST bill in the Legislature.

Rally on September 19

What's more, if Campbell and Hansen went ahead despite such a strong public statement that B.C. doesn't want the proposed HST, a recall campaign would be far more likely to meet great success as angry voters lined up to sign a recall petition.

The Initiative challenge is clear -- can HST opponents get organized enough in every single riding to obtain the magic 10 per cent of legitimate voter signatures? I say we can!

And to kick things off, join myself, former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm and other political and community leaders at a NO BC HST rally on Saturday September 19 at 12 noon outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

More on that when I return from holidays September 8.  [Tyee]

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