Elections BC rejects Recall application to remove BC Liberal MLA Ida Chong as "too wordy" by counting MLA as 5 words!

Unbelievable.

That’s my view of what happened late Wednesday when the Recall application to remove BC Liberal MLA and cabinet minister Ida Chong from office was rejected by Elections BC’s Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James.

Why? Because it had too many words after he insisted that “MLA” was actually 5 separate words – “Member Of The Legislative Assembly” and that “HST” was 3 words – “Harmonized Sales Tax”.

That meant that the Recall application with a maximum of 200 words went from under 200 to over 200 – forcing Oak Bay-Gordon Head proponent Michael Roy Hayes to resubmit the application and to make all 150 plus canvassers resubmit their own applications to be registered to take signatures!

This bureacratic insanity is a clearly outrageous effort to delay the Recall campaign that was set to being immediately.

Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm is now demanding the resignation of Craig James – a call I support completely. This is the last straw in a long list of James’ actions that have been entirely prejudicial to the Fight HST citizens Initiative and now Recall campaign.

The full Fight HST news release is below.

BREAKING NEWS: Elections BC alleged to have changed the rules around word count after November 23, when the application had already been submitted! See Paul’s comments and link below at 10:27 p.m
UPDATE November 26 – Globe and Mail newspaper confirms that Elections BC changed rules on how word count would be conducted!

November 26, 2010

Elections BC changed rules after recall application was submitted

By SUNNY DHILLON

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

‘This is the kind of thing they do in banana republics’: Fight HST spokesman

Elections BC rejected a Fight HST recall application as too lengthy – but did so using rules that were drafted after it received the application.

The rejection has led recall organizers to suggest the province’s chief electoral officer deliberately thwarted their attempt to get approval to launch a petition to oust a Liberal MLA who supported the harmonized sales tax, and should step down.

While Elections BC has defended its new rules – which pushed the Fight HST application over a 200-word limit by counting the acronyms MLA and HST as eight words instead of two – recall organizers expressed concern that they were not included in the application form when they downloaded it from Elections BC’s website.

“It’s a total joke. This is the kind of thing they do in banana republics … when they don’t want to have elections or they don’t want people to win. And we’re doing it right here in Canada,” said Chris Delaney, an organizer of the Fight HST campaign.

Mr. Delaney made the comments on Thursday after learning Elections BC had rejected Fight HST’s application for a recall in the suburban Victoria riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Universities Minister Ida Chong is the first target of anti-HST activists’ campaign of recalls against Liberal members of the legislature.

Mr. Delaney said organizers were never told MLA and HST (harmonized sales tax) each counted as more than one word.

Fight HST submitted its application on Monday.

The document outlining the changes was uploaded to the Elections BC website on Wednesday afternoon.

A cached view of the site shows it wasn’t part of the recall petition application package as recently as Tuesday.

Elections BC said Craig James, the province’s chief electoral officer, was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

But a spokeswoman said Fight HST organizers were told after the application was rejected that the new rules would be put on the website this week.

When asked why organizers wouldn’t be made aware of the new rules until after their application was submitted, she said: “Before the application had been submitted, there had been no need for a policy. No recall application in the past had ever come close to the 200-word limit. It hadn’t been an issue.”

When asked if an unforeseen problem could arise when Fight HST resubmits its application, the spokeswoman said Elections BC follows provincial legislation in all its decisions. She declined to comment on whether instituting such rules after the fact reflects negatively on the non-partisan, independent office…….

* * * * *

FIGHT HST NEWS RELEASE

BILL VANDER ZALM CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF ELECTIONS BC ACTING CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER CRAIG JAMES

Vander Zalm: Elections BC decision to reject Recall application for Oak Bay-Gordon Head based on “too long word count” continues pattern of obstruction and incompetence

DELTA – Fight HST Leader Bill Vander Zalm is calling for the resignation of Elections BC Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James in the wake of his decision to reject the application for Recall by Oak Bay-Gordon Head proponent Michael Roy Hayes on the basis that the Recall statement attached to the petition application is “too long”.

Vander Zalm says in a letter to Recall proponent Hayes, James said he considers the words “MLA” and “HST” to be not two words, but a total of eight words (Member of the Legislative Assembly and Harmonized Sales Tax) on each reference, resulting in the application statement exceeding the 200 word allotment.

“This simply continues the same pattern of obstruction that has characterized Elections BC since Craig James was appointed by Premier Gordon Campbell to take over. If there were restrictions on acronyms, that information should have been given to the applicants at the time they were handed their application. But it wasn’t because Craig James obviously made it up yesterday when he decided this would be another way to serve his BC Liberal masters by trying to sabotage the Recall petition. It is outrageous!” Vander Zalm said.

Colin Nielsen, the Lead Organizer for the Oak Bay-Gordon Head Recall says he has also been told that since the application was rejected, over 150 canvasser applications must also be re-done and re-signed.

“This is a deliberate attempt to blow us out of the water before the Christmas break. All Elections BC had to do was call us up and let us know there was a ‘technical glitch’ and we could have easily fixed it. But James is doing everything he can to try to thwart the democratic process rather than facilitate it. It’s like he’s making up the rules as he goes along,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen says he and proponent Hayes plan to return immediately to Elections BC on Thursday with the revised petition application and the existing canvasser applications to demand that the application process be facilitated.

“Enough is enough. This has got to stop. There is no reason to make us waste weeks trying to re-do all of the canvasser application again. It is like we are living in some sort of banana republic run by corrupt officials,” said Nielsen.

Vander Zalm says the latest decision by James is part of a pattern of obstruction regarding the Fight HST group. “The Acting CEO was appointed by the government, not the BC Legislature. He does not enjoy the independence and support required to be effective in this critical role as guardian of the democratic process.”

Vander Zalm says that since taking office, Acting CEO James has made a number of questionable decisions that have led many in the public to conclude he is not acting independently of the BC Government, as follows:

» James ruled that a BC Liberal government web site which contained dozens of HST advocacy videos at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars did not qualify as “Initiative advertising” even though the web site by Fight HST did.

» When the petition to end the HST was completed and validated, James refused to forward it to the Standing Committee of the Legislature as required by the Initiative Act, forcing the Fight HST proponents to get the Supreme Court to order Elections BC to submit the petition, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to private citizens.

» James has undertaken a major overhaul of the Elections BC management structure, including firing deputy Chief Electoral Officer Linda Johnson, a 28 year veteran of the agency who also happened to rule against the BC Liberal government’s planned mailout during the petition.

» James sent intimidating letters to over 2,000 British Columbians, including numerous elderly citizens who accidentally signed the Initiative petition twice, threatening them with two years in jail and $10,000 fines only one week before Recalls were set to begin and over three months after the petition had been counted and validated.

» James has gone on record as saying that a referendum on the HST will take between one year and nine months to conduct, even though entire province wide elections have been held in the past within 4 weeks of a government giving notice to EBC that it has dropped the writ.

“Now he is telling the people of Oak Bay-Gordon Head their application for a Recall has been rejected because common acronyms like HST and MLA are actually eight words. It would be laughable if it weren’t so serious,” said Vander Zalm.

“This time he has gone too far. We call on Craig James to admit he has lost the confidence of the people of BC and done irreparable damage to the independent reputation of Elections BC, and resign. Failing that, we call on the premier to remove him and we call on the entire BC Liberal caucus and all of the potential leadership candidates to immediately denounce this charade,” Vander Zalm concluded.

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