I am a firm believer in the democratic process, including referendums, provided the processes are properly applied. I don’t believe that the HST referendum can be legally enforced. That is not to say that it was illegal, rather the question was handled under the wrong act.
In accordance with the Referendum Act, the governor-in-council solely orders that a referendum be conducted. It is his/her call alone. No petition is necessary, nor did the governor-in-council order such a referendum. I don’t believe that the Referendum Act was ever intended to interfere with budgets, taxes, etc. That would set the most dangerous precedent and would cause chaos.
The Referendum Act does not apply to initiative votes under the Recall and Initiative Act, under which this “petition” was submitted. Under Part 2 Division 1 of the latter act, any registered voter may apply to the chief electoral officer for the issuance of a petition. This is what happened, and confirmed by Elections B.C. Thus this “petition” must comply with the Recall and Initiative Act, and that was what was agreed to.
In accordance with paragraph 15 of the Initiative Vote, an initiative vote is successful if (a) more than 50 per cent of the total number of registered voters vote in favour of the initiative; and (b) more than 50 per cent of the total registered voters for each of at least two-thirds of the electoral districts vote in favour of the initiative. Both are requirements. Note that this act does not say voters who voted, rather all registered voters. This is a true democratic outcome. This vote started out as an initiative vote and somehow got turned around to a referendum through administrative errors.
That is why the opposition was pushing so hard for Premier Clark to confirm the validity of the vote as a referendum. He knew he could not win a 50 per cent majority vote if this was properly handled as an Initiative Vote. The Premier was mistaken to let this be termed a referendum (this was not ordered by the lieutenant-governor-in-council) and to not insist that this be handled under the Initiative Vote, which requires an in-favour vote of more than 50 per cent of registered voters … not just those who voted. And that is why I believe that either the Supreme Court of B.C. or the Supreme Court of Canada would nullify this vote. Just my opinion.