NEWS RELEASE · 14th September 2010
Vander Zalm: Premier’s call for binding referendum requiring a simple majority vote requires legislative action.
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
Text of the letter below;
Honourable Gordon Campbell
Premier of British Columbia
Via email: premier,,,gov.bc.ca
Dear Premier Campbell,
We understand via media reports that you have rejected the Standing Committee’s decision to submit the
Initiative to End the Harmonized Sales Tax and accompanying “HST Extinguishment Act” to the Chief Electoral
Officer to conduct an non-binding Initiative Vote requiring 50% of the registered voters province-wide and in 2/3
of the constituencies, in favour of a binding referendum using a simple majority vote.
We commend you on accepting our proposal for a truly democratic, binding referendum. We ask that you
reconvene the legislature immediately to pass the necessary legislation to give effect to your stated intentions. As
you know, the decision to change the requirements of the Initiative Act cannot be made by the premier alone, but
requires the approval of the legislature to enact.
Further, we ask that you consider the following proposals in order to ensure a fair and impartial process so that a
truly democratic result can be obtained in the referendum:
1. Immediately amend the Recall and Initiative Act to provide for a binding referendum requiring a simple majority
of votes cast, in a fall sitting of the legislature.
2. Conduct the referendum as soon as possible, certainly no later than the end of this year. The reason for this
request is to ensure certainty for business and consumers so as not to unduly harm the economy, as will certainly
happen if the referendum is held in a years’ time. This is because consumers will simply curb, and in some cases
cease spending altogether in anticipation of the HST being repealed, causing incalculable damage to the economy.
3. Include the “Proponent” (Fight HST) in approving the question to be held in the referendum, together with
Elections BC and Cabinet. This will ensure that a fair and accurate question is asked in the referendum that is
acceptable to all parties.
4. Commit to refusing to spend taxpayer dollars to advertise the government’s position against the HST
Extinguishment Act. We ask for a level playing field so that the debate can be fair and balanced and both sides can
be heard. This is not possible if government uses the people’s own money to oppose the extinguishment of a tax
the people have shown in the petition and in numerous polls that they do not want.
We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to your reply forthwith, as time is of the essence.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Bill Vander Zalm
Former BC Premier
Leader, Fight HST