B.C. chief electoral officer to leave post before HST petition submitted
Harry Neufeld has a lot of things on his mind nowadays that aren’t related to his job as B.C.’s chief electoral officer.
He’s talking about taking some time off and perhaps reinventing himself.
In late April, according to Neufeld, he was advised by Bill Barisoff, the Speaker of the legislative assembly, that he will not be appointed to a second term.
“My term ends on June 5,” Neufeld told the Straight in a phone interview from his residence in Victoria today (May 21).
At around midnight on June 5, “the camper will be loaded and the next morning, we’ll be leaving,” he said.
Neufeld’s term ends one month before the July 5 deadline for proponents of the anti-HST initiative to submit their signature sheets to B.C.’s chief electoral officer.
Under the Recall and Initiative Act, after the petition is submitted, the chief electoral officer has 42 days to determine the results.
The legislative assembly has struck a bipartisan committee to look for a new chief electoral officer.
In recent weeks, Elections B.C. has twice ruled against the B.C. Liberal government on matters relating to the ongoing initiative against the harmonized sales tax.
In late April, the electoral body decided that the government cannot mail flyers to voters in order to defend the controversial revenue measure.
Earlier this month, Elections B.C. also dismissed a complaint by Finance Minister Colin Hansen that proponents of the anti-HST initiative were misleading the people.
Neufeld said that he received a letter from Hansen on May 20, in which the finance minister, according to Neufeld, was “very grateful for the explanation that I gave to his complaint”.
“I think he was frustrated,” Neufeld said. “I don’t have any doubt that he would have preferred that our ruling was that he could have advertised in the way he wanted to with regards to what he thought the benefits of the HST program were. But you know, I think after reflection, after receiving my response to his complaint, he seems quite understanding of the realities of the fact that the independent officers of the legislature are assigned to uphold the laws as they were written, and we try to do that consistently, fairly, and impartially.”
According to Neufeld, there are three “roads” that he can explore after his term is over.
“One would be to take another job, and all of the soft offers that I have so far are out of the country. So I’m considering whether it’s worthwhile to move to Stockholm, Sweden, or Atlanta Georgia, or Washington, D.C.,” Neufeld said, without offering more details.
“The other options are to go into consulting, which I’ve done before in electoral management,” Neufeld said.
“And third would be to do something different: teach, or start a business, or who knows,” Neufeld added.
Before his appointment as B.C.’s chief electoral officer in 2002, Neufeld held positions in electoral bodies like Elections Canada. He was also an electoral management consultant with the Canadian Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and with several international organizations and electoral agencies around the world.