The B.C. Recall and Initiative Act is quite unique in Commonwealth jurisdictions. I suspect that the politicians, who drafted it with strict rules and a high bar, never really expected it to be used. Well, they were wrong, as politicians can be. There have actually been 20 approved recall applications since 1995, of which four proceeded. Three of those four petitions failed, as they did not collect enough valid signatures. The other petition was halted during the verification process because the MLA in question, Paul Reitsma, resigned.
Attempt number 21 is underway in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, a middle-class constituency straddling two municipalities in Greater Victoria. The eclectic group of Fight HST veterans organizing this campaign are confident of success. This is a well educated, politically savvy constituency where the voter turnout in the last election was 67 percent. Voters understand the issues, and anger over the deceitful introduction of the harmonized sales tax is very strong.
While Ida Chong has taken out full-page ads claiming that this is nothing more than an NDP plot and an attempt to refight the last election, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the majority of recall committee members are deeply insulted, as they have never, and may never, vote NDP. This is a truly nonpartisan, grassroots movement, made up of people who feel that they have been manipulated and lied to. They are mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more. Yes, I am the recall proponent, and a long-time member of the NDP. But, more importantly, I am a long-time resident of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. The issue in this campaign is not about how I voted in the last election; it is about how Ida Chong has voted since the last election.
The decision by the steering committee to be the lead recall campaign was not taken lightly. It is understood that, in being first out of the gate, we must not fail. The success of this campaign will be critical to the success of all recall campaigns that follow. The challenges were discussed in an open and honest conversation among people of widely differing political perspectives and experiences. In the end, the passion, strong and varied skill sets of the team, and commitment to 60 days of hard work made the decision surprisingly easy.
While the HST remains the focus, this campaign is more broadly about holding government—this government and any future government—accountable to the people who elect them. This has been described as populist democracy in action, and that is the bottom line—this campaign will succeed on the energy and commitment of citizens committed to making it work. Happily, there seems to be no shortage of willing workers. On November 22, when the petition was filed with Elections B.C., over 150 canvasser applications were included, and more are arriving at the campaign office every day.
The task before the steering committee and the canvassers is considerable. We have 60 days in which to collect 15,366 signatures, a number which represents 40 percent of the total votes cast in the constituency in the 2009 election. Interestingly, only residents who were on the Oak Bay-Gordon Head voters’ list in 2009 can sign the petition. Newcomers to the community cannot. Only those people who were in a position to elect Chong in 2009 have the right to un-elect her in 2010.
I encourage you to visit the campaign website. If you can’t make it over to Victoria to lend a hand, donations, large or small, are most welcome. See the link on our website. We hope that you will join us in making political history in B.C.
Mike Hayes is the proponent of the campaign to recall Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong.