Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The HST Referendum

People are now unhappy that this is going to a referendum?   That is the only possible option,  it is unreasonable to expect the proposed act to be passed by the current legislature because it is the one that brought in the HST in BC.   A referendum is the best way to get the question answered if the public is for or against the HST when it comes to taking an action that is intended to direct the government.

It seems completely unreasonable for the Legislature to consider the proposed Act without some sort of direct democratic mandate to do so.   The intent of the initiative process has always been to send things to referendum, the committee has done exactly what was expected of them to send it to referendum.

I also find the commentary out there that the referendum is not binding an indication of the lack of knowledge the public has over how we are governed.   No referendum can bind the Crown and by extension the Executive or the Legislature.   There is no constitutional space to make a referendum binding within the Constitution of Canada or the Constitution of BC.  

Our constitutional monarchy works by having the legislature advise the Crown and then the Crown acting on the advice.   The representative of the Crown appoints a government based on who has the confidence of the house.   At no point is there anyway for a referendum to bind the Crown or the government.

There has never been a binding referendum in Canadian history, and unless we change our system of governance from a constitutional monarchy to some form of republic.   In a republic the power is vested in the people, in our current system power is vested in the Crown.

Later I will do some analysis on recall campaigns and the odds that they will succeed.


Anonymous said...

well...not legally binding.
But in practice there are binding referenda. If the government says it will be binding then for all intents and purposes it is binding. They'd be taking a huge risk going against the decision of a referendum they said was binding even though legally it is allowed.

As for whether this should be a referendum or not I'm kind of torn on the issue. I understand the ballot initiative process is intended to allow the people to direct the government outside elections. But I'm wary of setting precedents where people get everyone riles up over something then start constraining the ability of the legislature to govern effectively. Maybe there are checks and balances in BC's system that avoid problems but I worry about what has happened in California where many ballot initiatives over the years have essentially hobbled the government and might bankrupt the state.

This initiative is pretty simple, but it is about the ability to tax. What if next year van der Zam brings forward a motion that the legislature can't raise taxes at all? Lots of people would like that, what if they vote for it, and pass a referendum on it. Can that kind of thing happen under BC's system?

Maybe I'm worrying over nothing, but anything that allows emotionally charged, populist, yes/no referenda to arbitrarily constrain the ability of the legislature to pass laws makes me worry about where it will all lead.

Tim said...

What no one in this brain dead province seems to get is the HST can ONLY can repealed by the Federal Parliament. The BC referendum and initiative act and whatever promises Gordon Campbell or Carole James make are irrelevant as only Ottawa can eliminate the HST and this is also the view of the recent court judgment of the constitutionality of the HST by Judge Baumann.
Now at some point it might be in the political interest of Ottawa to do this but I do not think it will be as simply as people think. First and foremost some of what is coming out of the Conservatives and the Civil Service seems to indicate in vague way that the Federal Government will hold BC to the full five year term of the agreement. Harper for example mentioned that BC has the same agreement as all the other HST provinces which I interpret to mean BC will be held on an equal basis to the same of terms of the CITCA agreement as every other province. I also think the real decider at the political level is Jim Flaherty not Harper and I think Flaherty is someone who if you look at his track record on income trusts and national securities regulation is not someone that is sympathetic to an old style Reform party view of provincial rights.
Now would Vander Zalm turn his guns on Harper and Flaherty. Hard to say I think he was pretty pissed off at his lawsuit on the HST's constitutionality being thrown out by Judge Baumann. I for one think Ottawa would be a much more entertaining place with someone like Bill Vander Zalm as an MP running on a western populist style platform. On the otherhand Ottawa is a different game completely than provincial politics. For example the internal politics of the Bloc and the provincial PQ are much different despite the fact the are commonly associated with one another. The Bloc is a very hieracheral party similar to the Federal Conservatives dating back to the days of Lucien Bouchard. The PQ on the otherhand is much more rambunctious undisciplined group with all sorts of special interests akin to the BC provincial NDP.
One unique odd thing about BC which it has in common with Quebec is that a significant segment of the population is far more engaged in provincial politics than federal. In Ontario and even Alberta in some ways it is completely the opposite.