PREMIER MUST LEGISLATE BINDING REFERENDUM
Vander Zalm: Premier’s call for binding referendum requiring a simple majority vote requires legislative action.
Victoria – Fight HST Leader and former BC premier, Bill Vander Zalm, says Premier Campbell’s call for a binding referendum requiring a simple majority of votes cast to kill the HST will require new legislation or amendments to the Initiative and Recall Act.
Vander Zalm says the premier’s announcement came immediately after both the Liberal and NDP members of the Standing Committee voted unanimously to submit the “HST Extinguishment Act” to a non-binding Initiative Vote requiring an undemocratic threshold of 50% of all registered voters to pass.
“The statement by the premier shows he is starting to understand he can no longer dictate his will on the HST to British Columbians, and we welcome that if he is truly sincere,” said Vander Zalm.
But Vander Zalm says a number of issues were raised by the premier’s comments. “First, as much as we welcome this change of heart, it is not his decision to make. He must reconvene the legislature and amend the Initiative Act to allow for a truly democratic referendum that is binding and requires a simple majority vote, since the current legislation does not allow for that.”
Vander Zalm pointed out that Elections BC confirmed at the hearings today that Cabinet has the final say over the question to be asked. “If that’s true, the only way to ensure a fair and accurate question is asked that reflects the intention of petition is to allow both Elections BC and the proponent, Bill Vander Zalm, to participate in drafting and approving that question together with the government.”
As well, Vander Zalm says that the government should not use taxpayer funds to advertise its position on the HST while acting as an official “Opponent” of the referendum. “There is no way the people can compete with the government using their own money to oppose them. We say there should be a level playing field, and that both sides should make their case through public meetings and through the media.”
Vander Zalm says that with BC still in recession and the government running massive deficits that there is no point in government spending huge sums of money trying to skew public opinion. “If Premier Campbell truly wants a democratic process as he says, he will respect the financial limits of the people to fight back against his government.”
Vander Zalm says the referendum must be conducted before the end of 2010. He says it would be highly irresponsible to wait another year to vote on an issue as pressing as the HST. “The damage to the economy from waiting until September 2011 will be incalculable. It will slow spending down even more than has already happened. In the case of new home construction, investment real estate, and home renovations, it will kill those industries completely, since everyone will immediately halt major spending in anticipation of the HST being extinguished.”
“Even major municipal capital projects will be put on hold as towns and cities wait to realize huge savings from ending the HST.”
“Consumers will continue to be hurt as well, and need relief sooner rather than later from this regressive tax,” added Vander Zalm.
Vander Zalm says further damage would be caused by delaying the referendum, since the government will have to refund more than $2B in HST revenues to all British Columbians. “The HST Extinguishment Act provides for any extra HST monies to be refunded back to the taxpayers. If the government waits another year to repeal the tax, they will have to pay all that back to British Columbians.”
Vander Zalm says the provincial government has only spent half the federal transition money so far, and waiting another year to rescind the tax will see them having spent the balance. “Then they’ll have to pay that back too. Delaying the referendum could cause more damage and create even more problems than the tax already has. They must act immediately for the sake of businesses, consumers and the economy itself.”
Vander Zalm says he has sent a letter to the premier pointing out these important issues, and asking that he move quickly to resolve them in the best interests of the whole province.
“We look forward to hearing back from Premier Campbell. He has said that British Columbians will have the final say. Now we need him to ensure a process is underway to have that happen,” concluded Vander Zalm.