The complications surrounding the HST referendum seem to be multiplying.
First, a counterintuitive question requires that HST critics voice their opposition by voting “yes.”
Next, details of the mail-in ballot reveal a three-envelope process with multi-step instructions. It’s not rocket science, but any barrier to voting should be taken seriously in a province where voter turnout reached a new low of 51 per cent in 2009.
Add to the list of hurdles voter fatigue (British Columbians will likely be asked to vote four times over seven months) and a postal service in limbo. Elections B.C. mailed the first of the ballots on Monday, two days before Canada Post’s rotating strike evolved into a employee lockout.
All of the confusion could have been avoided.
With a provincial election likely only months away, holding it in conjunction with the referendum could have brought many benefits.
First, it would have saved the government $12 million, the estimated cost of the mail-in ballot. Second, the buzz generated from a joint election-referendum would increase voter turnout, unlike a standalone event.
That’s partly because during general elections, parties work hard to get their voters to the polls.
Clearly, the Liberal Party has good reasons for not holding a joint election-referendum. The party wants a chance to prove or redeem itself before the public gets the chance to give them the boot.
“The beauty of what they’ve done is they’ve inoculated themselves from the issue,” said Dennis Pilon, a political science professor at the University of Victoria. “Whatever happens with the referendum now, they’re a winner.”
What’s best for the Liberals, however, is not what’s best for British Columbians and we think it’s an opportunity missed.
Any general election is the perfect opportunity to let the people vote directly on issues of great public importance and divided opinion.