New Democrat MLAs are practising good politics by opposing the harmonized sales tax inside the legislature. But that opposition could ultimately be less effective than the campaign being waged against that tax outside the legislature. Let me explain. Right now, the New Democrats are trying to convince seven Liberal MLAs to vote against a bill that will pave the way for the HST. But thanks to the principle of caucus solidarity - which sees MLAs punished if they vote against their party - the chances of that happening are thinner than slim. And New Democrat leader Carole James should know that - having suspended one of her MLAs for breaking ranks and voting against the Tsawwassen Final Agreement.
Which means the Campbell administration will be able to use the strength of its majority to force that bill through the legislature. But, outside the Rockpile, Bill Vander Zalm has launched an anti-HST petition initiative that could legally force the Liberals to axe that tax or call a referendum on it. And that gives British Columbia's ex-premier arguably far more potential power than any of the province's elected opposition members. And I have to wonder what that says about the state of representative democracy in this province.