Recall campaign post-mortem

Organizer, MLA offer comments after efforts fail to force recall

Recall Ida Chong’s lead organizer stressed that the anti-HST message was heard and sent despite the defeat of the campaign.

“We’re disappointed. That’s probably an understatement,” Michael Hayes said last week, after canvassers gathered just 8,818 of the required 15,368 signatures needed to recall the Liberal MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“Yet it would be wrong to characterize this campaign as a failure.”

The Victoria resident was looking at the process optimistically, especially as the Fight HST organization mounts recalls in other provincial ridings. The message sent in the group’s first recall campaign was that British Columbians feel deceived by the introduction of the HST, he said.

The numbers didn’t exactly indicate that feeling – canvassers collected signatures from 22 per cent of registered voters in the riding.

Hayes attributes the low total to faults within the Recall and Initiative Act.

He laid out several suggestions, previously recommended by former Elections B.C. chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld, to improve the act and make it more democratic.

“This bill has been written by politicians, of politicians and for politicians … This is not recall and initiative legislation; it is legislation that it meant not to work,” Hayes read, citing Premier Gordon Campbell’s 1994 speech as leader of the opposition when the legislation was introduced.

Among the changes he’d like to see are the allowance of access to apartments and condo buildings, limiting recall to a fixed period between elections and increasing public awareness to clarify confusion in the recall process.

Until changes are made, he said there are too many “challenges and obstacles built into the recall act legislation” for it to succeed.

But support for the other two ongoing recall campaigns remains high, and Hayes will offer his support and advice to organizers. The biggest mistake they can make, he said, is releasing signature counts on a weekly basis.

“We didn’t want the numbers game to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Before the final figures were released, Chong said she believes people may start looking at the Recall and Initiative Act as a futile democratic process.

“It’ll soon be a tool that people think is ineffective or should be scrapped. That’s the danger when people aren’t careful when they use a powerful tool like recall,” she said.

Liberal MLAs Don McRae (Comox Valley) and Terry Lake (Kamloops-North Thompson) currently face recall campaigns, which are being fueled by the public outcry against the HST.

Chong says her next focus is choosing which candidate to back in her party’s upcoming leadership convention. She says her decision likely won’t be public until after Feb. 12.

She said she was “blown away” by support received from constituents during the last two months.

“They said ‘Don’t give up. Keep your chin up.’ They might not necessarily have voted for me, but they don’t believe recall was used in the right way,” she said.

“(They said) ‘Yes we might disagree with her policies, we might not agree with the HST, but we get our chance at the referendum.’ They may be angry, but they understand recall isn’t going to get rid of the HST.”

The recall campaign was launched Dec. 6 and Chong was the first target of Anti HST, which hoped to remove Liberal MLAs who supported the tax.

kslavin@saanichnews.com