Elections British Columbia has advised the government its proposed budget mailer promoting the harmonized sales tax may violate the Recall and Initiative Act. This, because the government hasn't registered to be an opponent of former premier Bill Vander Zalm's initiative against that tax and the mailer could be considered initiative advertising. In response, Colin Hansen has said the government won't be sending that mailer out during the petition period. But, at the same time, he's lodged a complaint with Elections British Columbia alleging violations of the act by Mr. Vander Zalm's organization and New Democrat MLAs campaigning against the tax. In his letter to chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld, the finance minister makes reference to provisions that "prohibit proliferating false and misleading information; that require identification of financial agents and advertising sponsors; and that preclude individuals who are not registered as proponents or sponsors from advertising in support of a petition." But our reading of that legislation is the HST initiative won't be legally invalidated even those alleged violations are found to have been committed. The reason: the maximum penalty for the alleged offense lodged against Mr. Vander Zalm - proliferating false and misleading information - is a $10,000 fine or two years imprisonment. The other alleged offenses have a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine or one year imprisonment.
April 29, 2010