During the legislative session I raised the possibility that the HST referendum would be interrupted by a mail strike that could create the possibility of a legal challenge to the referendum outcome on the grounds that Elections BC could not guarantee every British Columbian received a ballot in a timely manner and that all marked ballots were received by Elections BC in time to be counted.
After a few weeks of rotating strikes, Canada Post has now locked out the postal workers. It’s uncertain how long this lock out will last. Some people in our region don’t have their ballots yet. Others have mailed theirs only to have them become part of a backlog of mail. In the legislature, I proposed an amendment that would have given the government and chief electoral officer the right to cancel the mail-in ballot and revert back to a single-day vote on Sept. 24 if a mail strike added uncertainty to the mail-in process. I could not formally move my amendment because non-government MLAs cannot propose legislation which commits the Crown to spending money. Nevertheless, Attorney General Barry Penner could have put my amendment forward as a government initiative.
Instead, he agreed a mail strike may create an opportunity for a legal challenge against the referendum outcome but said the government was willing to take that risk. His rationale: the constitution only guarantees people the right to vote in a general election, not in a referendum!
Penner’s point being that if the referendum outcome was challenged the government would likely win any legal battle because voting in a referendum wasn’t a constitutionally guaranteed right. As if the way HST was foisted on us wasn’t bad enough, and if the political posturing by both parties around the referendum and the future of the tax isn’t confusing and partisan enough, we now add a Canada Post lock out and a possible legal challenge to the referendum outcome into the mix.
Could B.C.’s HST debacle get any worse?
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.