“Like others, I was astonished by Premier Campbell's statement that the result of the Initiative vote on September 24, 2011 will be binding on the government if a simple majority of those voting vote to get rid of the HST," said Green Party of BC Leader Jane Sterk. “Greens want to know if the comment was one of Campbell's impulsive off the cuff remarks that will be clarified later to mean something quite different or if this comment reflects a plan to improve the Recall and Initiative Act itself.
“What happens if the government chooses a mail in ballot and only 22% vote as happened with the last mail in referendum? Will the BC Liberal government rescind the HST if 50% plus one of those voters vote to cancel the tax? That would mean that 11% or 361,000 of the potential 3,280,000 eligible voters will determine the result. Is that the commitment the Premier has made? If so, that is substantially lower than the number of signatures collected during the Anti-HST Initiative campaign so why bother with a vote at all.
“The same question would apply to an in person vote. Does the voter turnout matter? In the 2009 election we had 50% voter participation. If Campbell's statement is to be believed, that would mean 820,000 people or half of the 50% who vote would be acceptable. Standalone referendums rarely get 50% participation so the number required would be much lower - again rapidly approaching the results achieved already.
“The only way to ensure that British Columbians know the rules of the game is for the Premier to immediately clarify the criteria for success. BC Greens would prefer that this be done through legislation and we think the Premier needs to bring this to the Legislature this fall. We would like to see the bigger question of how to improve the Recall and Initiative Act so it is fair to the government, the opposition and BC's voters.
“We would like to see the Act specify that the Chief Electoral Officer will draft the Initiative question and specify the process by which the vote will take place and the criteria for success. We also need to distinguish between a Referendum and an Initiative. The government could use the opportunity created by the success of the Anti-HST Initiative to set the standards for this particular vote and to make the legislation itself functional so that there is a clear, predictable process for future citizen initiatives.
“Greens regret that the Premier's new found faith in a simple majority was not there is 2005 when the referendum on electoral reform received 58% of the vote. We would not be in this mess today if the 2009 election had been run under a fair voting system instead of one that gave the BC Liberals another false majority with the support of 23% of eligible voters,” concluded Sterk.
This article is a press release from the Green Party of BC.