Organizers behind the Fight HST initiative are putting pressure on British Columbia's Liberal government by promising to launch recall campaigns against Liberal MLAs over the scheduled HST referendum, Sept. 24, 2011.
Eighteen Liberal MLAs have been chosen as top contenders for the recall effort, including Sea to Sky Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre. Though the initiative was originally focused on a total recall of all Liberal MLAs, organizers announced Monday they would be narrowing in on three petitions selected from a list of 18 "high-risk" ridings.
The recall is being led by former premier Bill Vander Zalm and former B.C. Unity Party head Chris Delaney. Coined "MLA Survival Recall - Vote them off the Island," Delaney says Fight HST will hold a weekly contest to see which riding can sign up the most canvassers between Sept. 27 and Nov. 15th, the first day Recalls can begin.
The top three constituencies to sign up volunteer canvassers will go first. Further recall efforts will follow at a rate of one per month with the goal of moving the B.C. Liberals to either get rid of the tax or lose their seven-seat majority in the legislature.
"We had so much interest from so many constituencies, we decided this would be the fairest way to determine who gets to go first," Delaney stated in a press release. "It will also help gauge interest in each riding and build an army of volunteers to ensure success."
Under the Recall and Initiative Act it's possible to remove an MLA between elections and force a by-election, but to do so canvassers must collect signatures from 40 per cent of people in the riding listed on the 2009 voters' list. That means that more than 15,728 out of West Vancouver-Sea to Sky's 39,322 voters would have to sign. In the 2009 provincial election 18,527 voters, making up 47.12 per cent of the eligible vote in the riding, cast ballots.
While McIntyre says she is taking the petition seriously, she calls the tactic a "complete misuse of the recall." She is concerned about the amount of misinformation surrounding the HST and thinks waiting for the referendum will give the public the time needed to learn about the issue.
"We've heard from about 15 per cent of my riding and I'm clearly interested in hearing from the other 85 per cent, and now by going to referendum we have an opportunity for everybody to participate and we also have time to make sure people do have the facts and understand why we believe this is good policy," she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
"I totally appreciate that we caught the public off-guard (with the introduction of the HST) and now we want to hear what their view is but we also want to provide them with information and rationale and hope that we have an informed debate."
According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in mid-July, 67 per cent of respondents who live in provincial ridings currently held by the B.C. Liberals said they would sign such a petition - a five-point increase since June. In the online survey of a representative sample of 801 British Columbian adults, 76 per cent of respondents disagree with the implementation of the HST. Three-in-four respondents (75 per cent) would vote in favour of abolishing the HST if a referendum takes place next year.
McIntyre said the reality television tactics employed by Vander Zalm and Delaney have turned a critical issue into a "circus." She questioned why HST detractors have yet to outline why it is important to retain the PST, which she calls a "cascading tax."
"That tax applies to all stages of production, from way back to the tree in the forest. There's PST on the chainsaw, the tires of the truck that transports it, the mill, and all the way through production stages so the public was not paying just the seven per cent on the end one time only," she said. "With HST it is one time only. It is transparent, you see it at the end and it is not taxed all the way along the production line. We are trying to get a tax out of the system that was an impediment to both business and the Canadian consumer."
Though the referendum is non-binding B.C. premier Gordon Campbell has publicly vowed to honour the results, which are contingent on 50 per cent voter turn out.