This has been an exciting, tumultuous, difficult year in B.C. politics, and I appreciate the opportunity presented to me by the Georgia Straight to address some of the most pressing issues facing B.C. and facing me and the constituency I represent, Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
I understand that the decision to implement the HST, coming so soon after the last election angered many people. They are frustrated and upset that this significant change in taxation was introduced in this manner, and more importantly that our government did a poor job of communicating why we feel the HST is necessary. For that, I certainly apologize.
However, the recall campaign currently underway is not about the HST. Recalling your MLA will not eliminate the HST—the September 2011 referendum will determine that. So why recall, and why now? Quite frankly, I believe recall is being used as a political means to extract a political benefit for the NDP and for fringe right-wing parties. Unfortunately, recall is being used to refight the last election by creating a byelection. The recall campaign in my riding is being organized by someone who lives in NDP MLA Carole James’s riding, and many of the campaign’s volunteers and canvassers are not constituents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head but come from as far away as the Comox Valley. If people who live in Oak Bay-Gordon Head wish to speak with me or recall me, they can, but I do not believe we should accept outsiders coming in to our community, telling us what to do.
Recall legislation was implemented so that the public had recourse against an MLA who broke the law or committed serious ethical violations. It was designed to remove an MLA who has committed wrongdoing, and was never intended to be used as retribution against MLAs for an unpopular vote in the legislature. In September, NDP president Moe Sihota told members of his party that “the law forbids organizations from being proponents for recall; it has to be done by individuals. Below the surface though, it’s a partisan effort.” Recall legislation is being used, explicitly and admittedly, as a political, partisan tool to bully MLAs and to try to push British Columbia into political instability, by former MLAs like Bill Vander Zalm (who was forced to resign due to a conflict-of-interest scandal) and Sihota (who would like to effect a byelection for the NDP).
Everyone, even my political opponents in the NDP, acknowledge that I am one of the hardest-working constituency-focused MLAs in this province. I have worked extremely hard for my community, and the evidence of this is clear throughout Oak Bay-Gordon Head, from a new $350-million hospital, expansions and renovations at the University of Victoria, Camosun College, as well as the public schools that have been seismically upgraded. The investment in parks, bike lanes, and many other projects I have supported and advocated for over 14 years as MLA are achievements I am very proud of. I have always conducted myself in a professional and ethical manner and have considered the diverse opinions of the constituents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head in performing my duties as MLA.
Our government has made tough, sometimes unpopular choices to ensure the fiscal stability and economic prosperity of our province into the future. Whether you agree with some, all, or none of the things our government has done, whether you support or oppose the HST, I hope you agree that there are appropriate forums to have these debates, including elections and the upcoming referendum. Recall is not one of them.
Ida Chong is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.