Michael Hayes

Michael Hayes

Recall defeated, admit organizers who hoped to oust Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA

Despite steady optimism and a continued claim that everything legally possible was being done to see that the citizen-led Recall Ida Chong campaign was a success, its organizers today admitted defeat.

“We’re disappointed. That’s probably an understatement,” said Michael Hayes on Thursday after collecting just 8,818 of the required 15,368 signatures in 60 days to achieve recall. “Yet it would be wrong to characterize this campaign as a failure.”

The Victoria resident said he needs to look at the process with a hopeful and optimistic outlook, especially as the Anti HST organization continues to strive for successful recalls in other provincial ridings.

“I still think the message has been sent and I’m confident the message has been heard,” Hayes said.

That message is that British Columbians feel deceived by the introduction of the HST, he said.

And though the numbers don’t necessarily indicate that – they collected 22 per cent of signatures from registered voters – he attributes that to a numbers of faults with the Recall and Initiative Act.

Hayes laid out several suggestions, previously recommended by former Elections B.C. chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld, to improve the recall act and make it more democratic.

“This bill has been written by politicians, of politicians and for politicians … This is not recall and initiative legislation; it is legislation that it meant not to work,” Hayes read, citing Premier Gordon Campbell in 1994 as leader of the opposition when the legislation was introduced.

Among the changes he’d like to see are the allowance of access to apartments and condo buildings, limiting recall to a fixed period between elections and increasing public awareness to clarify confusion in the recall process.

Until changes are made, he says there are too many “challenges and obstacles built into the recall act legislation” for it to succeed.

But support for the other two ongoing recall campaigns remains high, and Hayes will offer his support and advice to organizers. The biggest mistake they can make, he said, is releasing signature counts on a weekly basis.

“We didn’t want the numbers game to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Earlier this week, before the recall organizers threw in the towel, the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA said she was feeling “more comfortable” knowing the recall campaign wasn’t going as well as her opponents hoped.

“If anything’s to be learned, recall, I do believe, can be a useful tool in terms of democracy if it is used appropriately,” Chong said.

The Recall campaign was launched Dec. 6 and Chong was the first target of the Anti HST organization looking to remove Liberal MLAs who supported the tax.

Hayes said one of the reasons signatures were hard to garner with this recall campaign, as opposed to one in 2002 against Delta South MLA Val Roddick, which collected 9,999 signatures but ultimately failed, is because constituents didn’t necessarily have a vendetta against Chong.

“It was a policy campaign, not a personal campaign,” Hayes said, referring to the HST implementation. “Ida, in her own push-back, said ‘Why me? What did I do wrong?’ Our answer: ‘You didn’t stand up and get yourself counted. You had more loyalty to your boss than to the people who elected you.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com