Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HST Powerplay: Bill Vander Zalm vs. Carole James?

I don't mean to keep writing on the HST -- not when there's Chinese spies to identify, and early reviews of the fake lake to discuss -- but Vaughn Palmer has some interesting news about the anti-HST fight in B.C. this morning that should be shared with you.

The bulk of his piece today is about how the anti-HST forces, led by Vander Zalm, have apparently taken embattled BC Premier Gordon Campbell off their target list for a recall initiative. Could be because they couldn't pull it off in Point Grey, with it's combination of transient students and well-off yuppies, or it could be because they think Gordo will give up the leadership soon enough anyways, so why waste the effort.

Speaking of giving-up the leadership, what's interesting is the battle for control of the anti-HST crusade that may be brewing between the ex-Socred Vander Zalm (who ideologically certaintly has more in common with the conservative BC Libs than the NDP) and the BC NDP, led by Carole James.

While James has been content to let the Zalm take the lead during the referendum petition drive, as the campaign shifts into a recall strategy targeting government MLAs in a bid to pressure the government to pass legislation to kill the HST rather than hold a referendum, cracks are forming. Palmer reports while Vander Zalm favours a drip-drip strategy to pressure Campbell to act without topping the government, James and the NDP want wide-spread recall to topple the government and put themselves into power.

Reports Palmer:
I've heard predictions from New Democrats that they will recall the Liberals in numbers sufficient to deprive the government of its majority in the legislature, and force an immediate election, clearing the way for an NDP government by this time next year.

Some say that they will also move Vander Zalm aside and take control of the anti-HST movement, once the current petition campaign is over.
This is interesting, and such cracks were inevitable. He doesn't like the HST, but an old Socred war-horse like Vander Zalm sure doesn't want to help usher-in an NDP government either. And for the NDP, it's less about the HST than it is about unseating Campbell and claiming power. While their interests coincided for a time, they're beginning to diverge.

What will be interesting to see is if James can so easily push Vander Zalm aside and take control of the anti-HST crusade. Even if the Zalm were to agree to go quietly, I have my doubts. The success of the movement in BC has been, in part, because it hasn't been closely aligned to one party. There isn't much love out there for the BC NDP either, or for James. They're polling well now because the public is pissed with Campbell, and James is the default choice. For many, it's about pressuring the government to kill the HST, not changing the government.

I can see why the NDP might be in a hurry. With fixed election dates, the next election in BC isn't scheduled until May 2013. There's a risk the HST anger could have subsided by then, particularly if Campbell resigns in favour of a new leader that can turn the page on this. If they want to capitalize on this, wide-scale recall (the BC Libs have a 5-member cushion) to overturn the government may be their best bet. The risk, though, is the air coming out of the HST balloon if people are faced with the prospect of an NDP government.

P.S. Congratulations to the Nova Scotia Liberals for their decisive wins in two by-elections last night. They managed to pull off the win even without Jack Layton campaigning against the Nova Scotia NDP government's decision to raise the province's HST to the highest level in Canada. I'm sure Jack will bring his anti-HST campaign to Nova Scotia real soon, though, and not just Ontario and BC.

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