Thwarting democracy

Acting chief electoral officer Craig James has made one of the most bizarre judgments ever in this province’s political history. And he made it in the midst of one of the most fascinating chapters of this province’s history.

Acting chief electoral officer Craig James has made one of the most bizarre judgments ever in this province’s political history. And he made it in the midst of one of the most fascinating chapters of this province’s history.

James ruled the petition against the harmonized sales tax was successful. The bizarre part is that James didn’t issue a public statement on the result and, because a group of business organizations have launched a legal challenge, is willing to let the petition fester in bureaucratic limbo.

The petition secured the required signatures of 10 per cent of the electorate in all 85 ridings – a monumental feat given that when the NDP wrote the Citizen Initiative legislation more than a decade ago it made the threshold for success so high no one ever thought such a petition would succeed.

But it has. It’s history in the making.

What is particularly disturbing about James’ ruling is that it sends a message that litigious special interest groups can thwart our democratic process. There is nothing more grassroots than a petition with lots of names on it. This one has more than 700,000 names on it – close to 20 per cent of the province’s population.

Given the magnitude of the petition, one would hope our elected officials would step in ensure our democratic process runs its course.

If the Liberal MLAs had any integrity, they would demand that the petition process not stop on the desk of Craig James. If they had any courage, they would demand that the subsequent legislation to scrap the HST make its way through committee to the legislature where they could vote on it.

Then, and only then, could they face another election – whether through recall or in 2013 – and say they stand on their record.

If the HST is as good for the province as our Liberals MLAs keep telling us, then they should all be willing, even proud, to stand up in the legislature and vote to keep the tax.

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