Friday, November 26, 2010

Canada: Symptoms of a Banana Republic

If you are prone to getting angry when reading how our elected officials willfully sabotage our system of governance, you may want to sit down before continuing.

The BC Liberal party announced in 2009 the adoption of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which came into effect in BC on July 1st, 2010. The 12% HST now applies to new houses, cars, clothing, furniture and haircuts (among other things), all of which previously had only the 5% GST tax applied to them. Mind you this is being applied in a province where people are financially stretched to the limit because of astronomical real estate prices.

So the good people of BC decided to do something about it and let the Liberals know they won't stand for this and created the Fight HST organization. Fight HST started collecting signatures for a petition to repeal the HST in BC. They were wildly successful and have collected over 500,000 signatures to date! Not only that, the Fight HST group started organizing campaigns to recall several elected MLA's (Members of the Legislative Assembly) that voted in favor of the HST. This is EXACTLY what an active, alert and intelligent citizenry is supposed to do in a representative democracy. Without checks and balances the politicians get away with anything.

The first of the recalls planned was that of Liberal MLA Ida Chong of the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding in suburban Victoria, who is the BC minister of science and universities and also now the minister for economic skills and development. They planned to canvas the area with 600 volunteers over 4-6 weeks to collect the 18,000 signatures (40% of registered voters) needed to successfully recall Ms. Chong from her post. According to Elections BC regulations, before commencing a recall petition, and application must be filed. Fight HST filed their application according to the rules on Monday November 22nd.

One of the rules regarding the petition application is that it have 200 words or less. This is clearly shown in the Google cached copy of the Elections BC Recall website which we have courtesy of the great work done by the Globe and Mail. However, on Wednesday Elections BC rejected the application because it had "too many words". They subsequently went on to explain that the acronyms MLA and HST, when read out loud, counted for 8 words instead of 2 and that put the application over the 200 word limit! Then, on Wednesday November 24th in the afternoon they published the new rules and guidelines where they had inserted, in the 3rd paragraph of section B, the following:

                         If the application is complete and meets the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act...

They then published the Recall and Initiative Act which is a silly document explaining how different acronyms, abbreviations and the like are to be treated when counting words.

They changed the rules after the application had been filed! This is a violation of the ex post facto legal concept which says you cannot change a law after the fact, i.e. after the act was committed. While expressly prohibited by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it comes to criminal law, it is also advisable to follow this concept for all other laws as well. Otherwise nobody would know what to do! This ridiculous rule change should have only applied to applications filed AFTER the date on which the new rules were made public.

Here is a video of Mike Hayes of Fight HST reacting to the news.

This is a disgusting attempt to thwart and frustrate the Fight HST group. Not only was their application to petition rejected but also 150 volunteer applications as well. Now they have to resubmit all of the paperwork and pay the application fees all over again.

The Chief Electoral Officer should resign immediately or be removed from his office. Shame on him! These are public employees whose salaries are paid for by the very people they are attempting to stifle! Do we pay a chief electoral officer to sit around and think how many words an acronym should count for instead of facilitating the desire of these registered voters to exercise their rights?!

This is something we expect from a mayoral election in Angola, not in beautiful BC.

I hope the Fight HST movement overcomes this obstacle and continues to toss each of these MLA's that voted for the HST out of office! They should also hold the chief electoral officer Craig James responsible for his actions.

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