Vote offers Liberals immunity

Media types and drive-by politicians will be quick to suggest the recent referendum on the HST was an "exercise in democracy". The fact that most of those making this claim are thrilled with the result begs the question that had the vote gone against them, would democracy have been served just as well?

Media types and drive-by politicians will be quick to suggest the recent referendum on the HST was an “exercise in democracy”. The fact that most of those making this claim are thrilled with the result begs the question that had the vote gone against them, would democracy have been served just as well?

The HST issue brought together a motley coalition of old-school fiscal hawks like Bill Vander Zalm, wooly headed socialists like Adrian Dix, and self-serving public-sector union gangsters like the BCTF. Clearly the point of the Yes campaign, if its backers are any indication, had nothing to do with economic common sense, and everything to do with punishing the Campbell Liberals.

Ironically, the pink Tory Campbell has since been replaced by the red Liberal Clark, and Campbell’s true punishment for his service was his appointment as Canada’s High Commissioner to the U.K. The Yes side has closed the barn door and the horse has long since left. But they won the referendum. And we’ll still pay 12 per cent total sales tax.

Referenda as a remedy of last resort for voters to force their elected representatives to reverse course on substantive issues is a populist and flawed notion. In the hierarchy of substantive issues, extinguishing the HST would fall somewhere far south of a Constitutional amendment, for instance.

While the idea of direct democracy plays well in media and political spin zones, the exercise of individuals being a allowed to shape policy by voting on specific issues is fraught with danger.

The HST vote is a clear example. A misinformed and emotionally charged electorate, encouraged by special interest groups standing to profit either politically or financially, or both, force the duly elected government to pursue a change in course, regardless of the consequences. All fine when things go well as a result — which is rarely the case. When things go wrong, as things inevitably do, who then suffers the consequences? Vander Zalm, Dix and the BCTF are unlikely to step forward and claim ownership of the consequences of their actions.

The result of the HST referendum will cost the B.C. taxpayer nearly $3 billion over the next 24 months. That number is not in dispute, both sides of the fight acknowledge the sunk cost of voting yes. Ironically, this gives the Clark government the opportunity to significantly cut spending, significantly raise taxes or both. Clark can do either or all with impunity thanks to the result of a referendum. Clark can justifiably claim the vote was not about her policies, at the same time pointing to the exploding deficit as a result of killing the HST.

Fittingly, the Vander Zalm tax hawks will see increased taxes as a result of their successful referendum. Adrian Dix will have a hard time attacking the Clark Liberals when they cut public-service jobs to help make up budget shortfalls he and the NDP supported. The BCTF will have to stand aside while the province cuts jobs and programs in education as resources are shifted to meet budget requirements, thanks to the successful campaigning of the teachers in the referendum. One wonders if these groups ultimately have the courage of their convictions.

The people who voted Yes unwittingly handed Clark’s Liberals the opportunity to inflict maximum fiscal pain on the taxpayers, and the groups that supported the Yes side are immune from any of the electoral consequences of their actions. This is the result of direct democracy.

Referenda are an abdication of duty on the part of politicians, and a dangerous weapon in the hands of special interests with an angry electorate.

Winston Churchill said: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” At least with general elections there are politicians to bear blame for bad policy and mismanagement. After a referendum, the voters are left with no one to blame but themselves.

 

 

 

Mark Walker is the publisher of the Penticton Western News.

 

 

Just Posted

The Eyes of the Tigers on the 2021 Beer Rune on June 19. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Beer Runners take trip around local beaches and brews

Over 160 people signed up to come back after the 2020 run was cancelled

There was high voter turnout for the first of three advance voting days for the Penticton city by-election.
Penticton city by-election general voting day is today, June 19

737 voters on June 9 in comparison to 2018 general election, which had 1,001 on first day

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 Penticton-area men charged with Kamloops brothers’ double homicide

Brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May in Naramata

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read