I’m getting mixed messages. Is the recall campaign by the anti-HST people a total waste of time and money, and a completely inappropriate use of the legislation?
Or is it an exercise in direct democracy and exactly what the legislation was intended for?
If you’re a B.C. Liberal, you very likely subscribe to the first definition.
“Recall is meant for a situation when an individual has done something egregious,” Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said recently. “It’s not meant for expressing displeasure with government policy. That’s why we have elections.”
“Egregious” is a word that’s become quite popular in recent years. It means anything from “a flagrant violation of human rights” to “gross ineptitude.” So, in Lake’s view, you’d practically have to be Baby Doc Duvalier to qualify for recall.
Long-time Liberal Todd Stone wrote in a letter to the editor last week that “the intent behind B.C.’s recall legislation was to provide voters a mechanism to remove an MLA who had committed some form of personal transgression, such as committing a crime, engaging in personal misconduct or not showing up for work on a regular basis with no good reason.”
It was not, he wrote, intended “to be used to address policy differences between political parties or to re-fight previous elections.”
When anti-HST and pro-recall crusader Chris Delaney was in town with former premier Bill Vander Zalm week before last, he rejected such views. Recall, he said, is “the opposite of an election.” It’s a way of getting rid of a politician you no longer want.
Who’s right? Neither, really, but Delaney is closer than Lake and Stone. There are no rules whatsoever on the reasons for recall.
Anyone can start a recall petition if they put down $50 and say in 200 words or less why an MLA should be fired. The next step, collecting signatures of more than 40 per cent of voters within 60 days, is the hard part.
But nowhere does it say anything about egregious or criminal behaviour. The Elections B.C. website states “there are no set criteria” on reasons for recall. Any reason will do.
Presumably, recall applicant Chad Moats could object to Terry Lake’s red hair, claiming redheads make poor MLAs. He might not get enough signatures based on that, but he could try.
What Moats does say is this: “I am proposing the recall of Kamloops-North Thompson Member of the Legislative Assembly, Terry Lake, because he supported the deceptive introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax. He refuses to represent the clear wishes of his constituents as expressed in the successful Initiative Petition to end the tax and return to a Provincial Sales Tax in its previous form. Instead, he has chosen to represent the interests of the British Columbia Liberal Party and their supporters in big business over those of his voters in Kamloops-North Thompson. Therefore, the voters of Kamloops-North Thompson wish to recall Terry Lake and elect a Member of the Legislative Assembly who will better represent them.”
One hundred and eleven words, well under the limit. What Lake, Stone, Delaney and Vander Zalm are really doing is expressing opinions on what recall should be used for, rather than what it is. You and I might not agree with the way the legislation is written, but it’s a stretch to say it’s being abused.
Moats figures he’ll get word back from Elections B.C. tomorrow or Thursday that his application has been formally accepted. It’s running a couple of days behind because he sent a regular cheque for his deposit and Elections B.C. wants it certified.
There’s usually a pause of three or four days after acceptance before the recall period kicks in, he said, so it could be early next week before the clock starts ticking.