Business group gears up for HST vote

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Philip Hochstein

The business organization that helped bankroll the defence against the first anti-harmonized sales tax recall campaign isn’t doing the same for the three other petition drives now underway.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. donated the largest amount of any participant in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head recall, which ended in February with just over half the signatures needed to unseat local B.C. Liberal MLA Ida Chong.

Recall petitions have also been launched against Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton. But Philip Hochstein, president of the ICBA, says he won’t be pitching for those recalls.

“Those are going to fail spectacularly, so we don’t think we need to be involved,” Hochstein said in an interview Wednesday.

Instead, Hochstein said his and other business organizations need to campaign to persuade people to support the HST in a province-wide referendum expected June 24. Former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST organization is gearing up for that vote, having forced the government to hold it by passing B.C.’s first-ever initiative petition last year.

“I think the business community failed the first time around, when Bill Vander Zalm led his band of merry men, and I don’t think they’re going to make that mistake again,” Hochstein said. “I think they have to be actively involved and get our message out, and ICBA will be part of that.”

Recall financing documents released by Elections BC show the ICBA spent $43,124 on radio and newspaper advertising, polling and a website to oppose the Oak Bay-Gordon Head effort.

That was more than the $28,000 spent by Chong’s own anti-recall campaign, financed with the help of a $25,000 loan from the B.C. Liberal Party. About $12,000 of that went to advertising, $8,300 went to pay salary and benefits and $4,000 on office rent and expenses.

Michael Hayes, the local recall organizer for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, reported his largest donation from the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. That included more than $7,400 for the services of an office manager, plus a $500 cash donation.

The paramedics’ union was legislated back to work with a three per cent raise in late 2009, after a long and bitter strike that sparked demonstrations against Premier Gordon Campbell as he campaigned for re-election.

The Victoria Labour Council also chipped in $500 toward the effort to unseat Chong.

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