Anti-HST campaign could transform B.C. politics, prof says
The surge of public support for the petition to repeal B.C.’s harmonized sales tax could signal the rise of a new political movement in the province, says a Vancouver Island political scientist.
Allan Warnke, a professor at Vancouver Island University, said the momentum behind the anti-HST campaign could give opponents of the Liberal government an edge in the next election.
Organizers of the citizen-initiative petition reported this week they have collected signatures from at least 10 percent of registered voters in each of the 85 ridings in B.C.
That threshold is the minimum required under law for the petition to succeed and possibly lead to a provincewide referendum on the tax, which the government announced following the 2009 election.
“Even if this particular initiative fails one way or the other, the people who have signed on to this are now potentially part of a movement that is within every riding,” Warnke told the Straight recently by phone.
“The spinoff from that, I think, is tremendous,” he said.
From 1991 to 1996, Warnke served as Liberal and later independent MLA for Richmond-Steveston. During that time he also sat on a legislative committee that provided input on the creation of the provincial legislation that governs the citizen-initiative process.
He said the anti-HST signature drive, which wraps up July 5, will leave behind an organizational foundation across B.C. that could be leveraged in an effort to topple the Liberal government. The campaign may even give rise to a new political party, he suggested.
But the question remains whether or not the apparent dissatisfaction with the B.C. government on display now will be a factor next time voters head to the polls.
“I think this one does have staying power,” Warnke said. “There’s something symbolic here that reflects something deep in the public consciousness.”