By David F. Rooney
Local organizer Jim Daniel welcomed the BC Supreme Court ruling in favour of the anti-HST petition as great news but wonders what happens next.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the next move will be,” he said Friday.
Local anti-HST canvasser james Walford’s reaction was blunt: “Mr. Campbell is in deep doo-doo.”
Every attempt by the BC Liberals to block the petition, which was signed by more than 700,000 registered voters, has so far failed. Premier Campbell and his ministers pooh-poohed the petition campaign led by former premier Bill Vander Zalm when it began and even when its numbers began to climb into the stratosphere tried to suggest that the men and women who signed it were ill-informed.
Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James then refused to pass it along to the Standing Committee for Legislative Initiatives. One of that committee’s 10 members, BC Liberal MLA John Slater said he would be willing to accept it. He was one of five members who have said they believe the petition falls within their jurisdiction — which it does.
Big businesses that favour the HST, even though it extends taxation to goods and services that were not previously taxed under the Provincial Sales Tax, initiated a lawsuit to try and stop it from getting to the committee.
The decision by Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman puts an end to all of those shenanigans. His ruling forces the acting Chief Electoral Officer to hand over the petition and draft Bill, The HST Extinguishment Act, to the Standing Committee.
“The HST Extinguishment Act’s purpose is to get rid of the HST by terminating the CITC Agreement that gave rise to it,” Vander Zalm said. “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,” he said. “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% 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 of BC Liberal MLAs.
“The people of BC have spoken,” Vander Zalm said. “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.”