Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, organizer of the Fight HST movement, is scheduled to appear at a fundraising kickoff to the Recall Comox Valley campaign, Saturday at Zocalo Café in Courtenay.
Campaign organizers will soon apply to Elections B.C. to initiate recall efforts against Comox Valley Liberal MLA Don McRae.
“All Don McRae needs to do to stop this action is to recognize that over 25 per cent of his constituents signed a petition against the HST last spring and demand that the tax be removed,” said Kathryn Askew, a former teacher of McRae’s who spearheaded the local Fight HST campaign.
“He is responsible to the people who vote, not to his BC Liberal colleagues and bosses. He needs to stand up for us, not for the multinationals.”
Besides the HST controversy, recall supporters are upset with the BC Liberals for cancelling mental health and addiction programs, exporting raw logs, closing courthouses, cutting conservation programs, and for selling BC Rail, among other things.
While he recognizes the importance of these issues, McRae questions how government is expected to pay for health care and education.
“Where are the dollars coming from? Are we raising personal income tax? Are we raising the PST? How are we paying for them?”
As an example, he said raising $1 billion through the PST would be a 20-per-cent increase.
“To think there’s this magic pot of dollars; it’s just not there,” McRae said.
In a letter, Askew says people of “all political stripes” are involved in the recall campaign. She also said McRae and his supporters are out of touch with people when they suggest the NDP is driving all the anger against the implementation of the HST.
“I don’t think for a second it’s 100 per cent NDP-driven,” McRae said.
At the same time, he questions if a recall fundraiser at a restaurant owned by federal NDP candidate Catherine Bell is coincidental.
“I don’t know, but it makes me wonder when people say it’s not an NDP-driven vehicle,” McRae said. “If it’s not driven by the NDP, they have many, many seats on the bus.”
If campaign supporters want to get rid of the HST, McRae questions why they are going after a rookie MLA who did not find out about the HST until three days before it was announced.
“How come they’re not going after the big players in cabinet?” McRae said. “They’re going after places where the NDP thinks they can win an election. If we want to play politics multiple times between the general elections, it’s going to really change the culture of British Columbia…But that’s life. No one said B.C. politics was ever easy.”
Askew suggests Recall Comox Valley would not be necessary if a new BC Liberal leader chooses to advance the HST referendum — as party candidate George Abbott promised — or allow a free vote in the legislature.
McRae has endorsed Abbott partly because he has been willing to bump the referendum date to June 24.
“We need to move it up,” McRae said. “Every British Columbian who’s a registered voter gets a say in what the future of the HST is. It may be good economics, but it is bad politics. It comes at a cost. If we want to get rid of the HST, how else are we going to grow the economy? Health care is eating up every dollar we can throw at it, and it will continue to do so for a decade or two to come.
“I don’t want to see anybody being hurt, obviously, in a tough economic time,” McRae added, regarding the effect of the HST on businesses. “But that’s the thing people have to remember. It’s not just the HST. We’re in the worst recession in 70 years in North America. That definitely has an impact on people’s spending.”
At Saturday’s event, Vander Zalm will speak about recall campaigns and express his political views about government actions at 6 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a receipt showing the HST, which Vander Zalm will autograph.
The evening also includes a performance by Flying Debris, an eclectic group of home-grown musicians who will play from 8 to 10 p.m.
For more information about Recall Comox Valley, contact Askew at firstname.lastname@example.org.