HST petition can proceed, B.C. judge rules
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Friday, August 20, 2010 8:00PM PDT
The leader of a campaign to strike down B.C.'s harmonized sales tax said a judge's decision to validate its 700,000 signature petition to kill the tax should send a strong message to the government.
On Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman struck down an argument raised by a coalition of business groups who argued that the petition wasn't constitutionally valid and that the province no longer had jurisdiction over the HST because it's a federal tax.
The six business groups involved in the ruling have said they will not appeal the decision.
Under provincial law, the chief electoral officer for Elections BC must now deliver the petition to a legislative committee that can choose to send the issue to the legislature for a vote or hold a non-binding referendum next year.
Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, who spearheaded the fight against the controversial tax before it took effect July 1, said today's decision now gives the province the power to revoke the tax.
"They can deal with it now. They can send it to Ottawa and I'm sure they'll agree and we'll be rid of the HST. It's a great day for B.C.," Vander Zalm told reporters from the steps of B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Fight HST leader Chris Delaney said the group will proceed with its campaign to recall Liberal MLAs if the government does not act by November 15.
"There's supposed to be a fall sitting in the legislature and there's never been more reason to have a fall sitting," he said.
"We have the biggest issue in B.C. history to deal with. There's no reason to delay it."
B.C. New Democrat Leader Carole James said her party would continue to put pressure on Liberal MLAs and bring the fall legislature back in session to deal with the HST.
"We're ready right now. It's time to get on with it. No more delays. The public voice is clear. Let's get rid of the HST. The committee should meet this coming week and let's do right by the public."
James said she wouldn't be surprised to see recalls begin this fall.
"People are angry. They've had enough of being disrespected."
James says Gordon Campbell should put the issue to a free vote in the legislature instead of putting it to a referendum a year from now, which she says will add costs and more delays.
Elections BC will submit the HST petition to the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives on Monday.