Elections BC rules against government HST flyer
A clearly disappointed Finance Minister Colin Hansen said Thursday he will pull the government's brochure until after Vander Zalm's petition to repeal the hamonized sales tax ends in July.
But Hansen said he's written a letter of complaint to B.C.'s chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld suggesting Vander Zalm and the Opposition New Democrats should be subject to similar scrutiny when it comes to spreading false and misleading information about the tax.
"Elections BC essentially advised us we don't have the right to explain through advertising why the government believes Bill 9 is in the public interest during this period," said Hansen at a news conference.
"This is especially surprising and disappointing."
Elections BC wrote the government Wednesday saying the government mail out does not meet the rules of the Recall and Initiative Act when it comes to government advertising surrounding promoting or opposing Bills or petitions.
"In order to ensure compliance with the Recall and Initiative Act, it is imperative that government advertising does not indirectly promote or oppose an initiative petition or the associated draft bill in any way unless government first registers as an initiative advertising sponsor and complies with the $5,000 advertising limit," said the letter to the Ministry of Attorney General from deputy chief electoral officer Linda Johnson.
Hansen said the government was trying to inform British Columbians about the HST.
Vander Zalm said Thursday the government had lots of time to mail out information.
"Instead they waited until they saw the initiative was making great progress and then they wanted to take a million of our dollars to tell the people that they should not sign the petition.
"I'm glad with Elections BC and their ruling."
Hansen's letter to Elections BC points to alleged violations of the Recall and Initiative Act by the Vander Zalm petition and provincial New Democrats "with respect to provisions that specifically prohibit proliferating false and misleading information."
The letter asks Elections BC to question Vander Zalm's petition, which has already collected more than 145,000 signatures.
"We will fully expect Elections BC to apply the law equally to everyone involved in the HST debate, including the NDP and Bill Vander Zalm and his canvassers," Hansen told reporters.
He said the Liberals were not setting the ground work to contest the validity of the petition.
"That's a job Elections BC needs to do," said Hansen.
Elections BC officials could not be reached for comment.
The Liberal government is poised to pass the HST into law, using closure to end debate.
Vander Zalm's petition to repeal the HST requires the signatures of 10 per cent of registered voters from every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings.
If he's successful, it could force the government to hold a non-binding referendum on the tax.