Since I’m in the business of handing out free advice, I’ll offer some to the Kamloops Voters Association — think very carefully before getting involved in a counter petition.
The simple reason is that, in all likelihood, it won’t succeed.
There are two good case studies that support this view. The most recent is the attempt to recall Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake. The recall committee headed by Chad Moats got roughly 10,000 signatures in 60 days.
It was about 5,000 shy of the number needed. This, on the heels of the anti-HST movement that resulted in several similar recall campaigns around the province, all of which have failed.
Moats had a campaign office, a volunteer team, and motivation based on a perceived injustice perpetrated by the Gordon Campbell government. He spent close to $13,000.
There are differences, of course, between the recall effort and a counter petition against a parkade, but the numbers provide a daunting comparison, and the recall experience is an interesting study in the challenges.
An apples-to-apples example is the 2002 counter petition against the water treatment plant, which I’ve mentioned previously. That petition, sponsored by the Taxpayers Committee for Open Democratic Discussion, needed 2,276 signatures to force a full referendum on borrowing $30 million for the treatment plant.
It got only 1,659.
A counter petition against the parkade would be even tougher, because the threshold of five per cent of eligible voters has since been raised to 10 per cent, which now equates to about 6,500 signatures.
The change to 10 per cent came after the City objected to the counter-petition coming into play, based on the fact the City had been ordered by the medical health officer to fix its water-quality problem. If the counter petition had been successful, and a subsequent referendum had defeated the borrowing bylaw, the City would have been in the ridiculous position of not being able to comply with a lawful order to build a plant due to having no borrowing authority.
So, what we have today is a requirement that’s twice as onerous as it used to be.
Mind you, the KVA might get together a pretty good volunteer group, raise some money, and put on a heckuva campaign, but success is anything but a given.
And, should the counter petition not work, what happens to the KVA’s credibility as the new voice of civic democracy? Is it then relegated to being just another anti-everything group?
Alternatively, of course, it could delegate the work to a stalking horse — a member who would take on the counter petition without attaching the KVA’s name to it.
That would avoid embarrassment.
But while there would be less pain, there’d also be less gain. And without the KVA officially behind it, the chances of getting those 6,500 names would diminish.
We are, in all likelihood, stuck with a two-level (eventually, perhaps, three) parkade at a location few people like. If they dislike it enough, some incumbent members of council may pay for it come November, and maybe that’s the better battlefield.
And, by the way, it would be helpful if the KVA was a voice for reasoned, fact-based debate rather than risking becoming a vehicle for disinformation. At last week’s meeting of the group, the myth that the parkade is for the benefit of the hotel across the street was again put forward.
Enough is enough.