HST or democracy?

 



Vander Zalm urges Premier to hold free fall vote on HST initiative petition

Fight HST leader and former BC premier, Bill Vander Zalm, has sent a letter urging Premier Gordon Campbell to agree to accept the Initiative petition to end the HST for a vote in the legislature this fall.

Vander Zalm says the court ruling on August 20 paves the way for the legislature to vote on the draft Bill now, and the time for delays is over. “We have asked the premier to indicate to the Standing Committee that he is willing to receive the draft Bill to extinguish the HST in a fall sitting of the legislature. We have told the premier that a costly and undemocratic, non-binding “Initiative Vote” is a waste of time and money, since even if it passes, the Bill will only come right back to the legislature for a vote anyway.”

Bill Vander Zalm address rally
Bill Vander Zalm announcing that there are more than enough signatures for the anti HST referendum to pass.

Vander Zalm says the threshold for an Initiative Vote is 50 percent of all registered voters, instead of a majority of votes cast, meaning that twice as many people who voted for the BC Liberal government are required to defeat a policy implemented by that government. “That is totally undemocratic and an exercise in futility. It is contrary to Canadian democratic tradition which has always relied on a majority of votes cast, not a pre-determined number of people showing up to vote,” said Vander Zalm.

“It is also a colossal waste of money. It is estimated to cost $30-$50 million to conduct such a non-binding vote. During a time of economic hardship for so many, and massive deficits by the government, that is money that could be better spent on health care or education or other services.”

Vander Zalm says he has told the premier that if a vote is not conducted this fall, it will be seen by British Columbians as just another delaying tactic by the government. “We won’t let them derail this process again. Their big business partners tried it last week in the courts and failed. The judge was very clear – this is a matter for the legislature. Failure to deal with it fairly and expeditiously will result in Recall campaigns against BC Liberal MLAs starting in November.”

Vander Zalm says that the only acceptable vote in the legislature is one that will defeat the tax and obey the will of an overwhelming majority of British Columbians as evidenced in the dozens of opinion polls taken on the matter, as well as the hugely successful Initiative petition.

“The people have spoken. The Supreme Court has spoken. It is time now for the government to get rid of the HST or bear the consequences of an outraged public,” Vander Zalm concluded.

HST Extinguishment Act a valid matter for Province to deal with

BC Supreme Court Chief Justice, Robert Bauman, ruled on August 20 that the Initiative petition to end the HST in British Columbia is a valid matter for the legislature and gave the go ahead to the Chief Electoral Officer to hand over the petition and draft Bill, “The HST Extinguishment Act,” to the legislative Standing Committee.

Initiative proponent, Fight HST leader and former Premier, Bill Vander Zalm, said lawyers for the business lobby tried to argue that the HST Extinguishment Act was beyond provincial authority. “They said the HST was an exclusively federal tax that could not be extinguished by the BC government once implemented. Justice Bauman’s decision has essentially nullified that argument by allowing the legislature to ‘undo’ the HST by whatever means is necessary.”

Vander Zalm explained, “The HST Extinguishment Act’s purpose is to get rid of the HST by terminating the CITC Agreement that gave rise to it. We have said all along that may involve negotiations or discussions with the federal government to give effect to our intentions. Now all of that can happen.”

“This decision allows for the provincial legislature to deal with the matter irrespective of whether the HST is considered a federal tax or not. We now have the means to undo the severe damage caused by both the HST, and the premier and finance minister’s unilateral actions to give away BC’s sovereign authority over provincial sales taxes. This is huge.”

Vander Zalm says the BC government can now formally request the federal government to agree to remove BC from the “harmonization” scheme in the Excise Tax Act while at the same time passing the HST Extinguishment Act, freeing BC from the HST and restoring BC’s sovereignty over provincial sales taxes.

Vander Zalm says the judge rejected all of the business lobby’s arguments, essentially confirming Fight HST’s suspicions that the lawsuit brought by big business was in essence a nuisance action that had little legitimacy or foundation in the first place.

“The magnitude of today’s decision cannot be overstated. The business lobby, as we said before, was running blocker for the government. They filed their suit a day before we submitted the petition. It was a 100 percent political challenge, and not one shred legal. They and their clients should be ashamed today for their attempts to thwart the democratic will of the people in exchange for money. It was pathetic.”

Vander Zalm says his timetable for repealing the HST has not changed, and that the government has until November 15 to get rid of the hated tax or he will begin Recalls.

“The people of BC have spoken. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has spoken. There is no more room for delays, political tactics or legal games anymore. It’s time now for MLAs to stand up for their constituents, and end the HST in BC by voting to get rid of it in a fall sitting of the legislature,” Vander Zalm concluded.

Help support the legal battle and make a donation. Make cheques payable to HST Legal Challenge and mail to 370 East Broadway, PO Box 95023, Vancouver, BC, V5T 4T8. Donations can also be made online at http://fighthst.com/donation/ and/or sign up to register with Fight HST for BC Recall at www.fightHST.com