No recall for MLA Donna Barnett

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett will not face recall.

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett will not face recall.

On Tuesday, lead organizer for the local recall campaign Eric Freeston confirmed the local group would not proceed with recall; he made the announcement on the same day the group had planned to file for the campaign with Elections B.C.

Freeston says the decision was not unanimous but was made considering a number of factors, including the state of current recall campaigns in the province, the recognition of the challenge in reaching the benchmarks for a successful recall, and the overall waning of public support due to the promise of a referendum on the issue and new leadership within the Liberal party.

“Most of the steering committee decided not to do this anymore because we see the futility in it,” Freeston says. “The momentum out of recall has just simply fizzled out. We know that is has fizzled out on the provincial scene and there is nothing we can do about that. The people are clearly happier to go with the referendum.”

Donna Barnett, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA, expressed relief at the news.

“I’m pleased it’s not moving forward,” she says, adding the experience was hard on her family. “You focus everyday on your constituency and work … but the whole time this thing is hanging over your head.”

Barnett supports the HST as good for business but says that if the referendum determines citizens don’t want it that will be respected.

Bill Carruthers, president of the Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal riding association, was also happy with the news. He said the constituency was ready with a media campaign if the recall went ahead; volunteers were also ready to scrutinize recall canvassers operating in the community. The organization had set aside approximately $10,000 for advertising in support of Barnett.

Freeston thinks recall is a valuable tool to hold MLAs to account but he suggests the legislation’s stipulation of 60 days to collect signatures from more than 40 per cent of the voters who were registered to vote in the electoral district in the last election is too onerous.

“It’s not doable.” he says. “It’s because we have recall legislation that’s really broken. … The bar that’s been set for us is so out of the ball park.”

Lead Fight HST organizer Chris Delaney acknowledged Cariboo-Chilcotin organizers faced a challenge in collecting signatures in a large and, in some areas, sparsely populated riding during the winter months.

“I knew they had some pockets of very strong support and other areas were a little weaker so I guess they just decided to hold off for now,” Delaney said when contacted on the issue.

Although the recall of MLA Ida Chong in Oak-Bay-Gordon Head failed, two others in Comox Valley and Kamloops-North Thompson are moving ahead. Delaney noted there is also interest in the ridings of Mission-Maple Ridge and Vernon.

“So it may be that there will be others that take the place of Cariboo Chilcotin,” he says.

Delaney stressed that the government’s referendum on the HST is an initiative vote, not a referendum that is binding and requires a simple majority. Under Elections B.C. legislation, an initiative vote requires more than 50 per cent of the registered voters in B.C. and 50 per cent of the registered voters in each of at least two thirds of electoral districts in the province to vote in favour of the initiative. Once that is achieved the initiative will go to the legislature for a vote. A majority-binding referendum as Gordon Campbell and other leadership candidates have promised requires a change in the legislation.

“Gordon Campbell has said that he’d make it a simple majority and he’d make it binding on the government but as you know Gordon Campbell is barely the premier anymore and won’t be by the time the vote is taken.

The leadership candidates are saying we’ll honour Campbell’s promise but none of them have the power to do that. No premier has the power to override legislation,” Delaney says.