EDITORIAL: Dispute may cripple HST vote

The postal strike-turned-lockout may prove to be a big factor in the provincial referendum on the HST.

What began as a rotating nation-wide postal strike – now turned lockout in urban centres – may not be inconveniencing too many people, because most don’t rely on the mail the way they once did.

However, it may prove to be a big factor in the provincial referendum on the HST.

Voting packages were going out in the mail three days a week before Wednesday. The last package is supposed to be delivered by Friday, June 24, but that seems to be a hopelessly optimistic timetable at  present, given that no one knows what will happen next in the escalating conflict between Canada Post and Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday the government will consider back-to-work legislation, but as of this writing no action had been taken.

Meanwhile, it appears that thousands of HST ballots are currently sitting in limbo somewhere in post offices and distribution centres – maybe not even in B.C.

Much of the country’s mail goes through Toronto, including mail that originates in B.C. It isn’t clear whether the HST referendum packages have gone there or not, but the modern mail delivery system is built on routing large volumes of mail through specific sorting plants. It is entirely possible that all or most of the voting packages go through Toronto before being delivered to B.C. addresses.

While Craig James, B.C. acting chief electoral officer, said Wednesday there were no plans to change the referendum timetable, Elections B.C. has the option to push back the deadline for returning ballots if the shutdown continues.

At present the referendum timetable calls for all completed voting packages to be in the hands of Elections BC by Friday, July 22.

While there will be opportunities to drop off the completed voting packages (including a location at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre) – and that may be the best bet for those who want to ensure that their votes are counted – some will opt for returning the packages through the mail system.

This is particularly likely when considering that many take vacations in late June and early July and won’t be going to great lengths to find a place where a completed referendum voting package can be dropped off.

The vote on the future of the HST is a very important one. Not only is it crucial in determining B.C. tax policy, it is seen by many as an opportunity to strike a blow for democracy and public consultation.

While the government handled the HST issue badly for much of the past two years, it is now consulting the public in a meaningful way.

It would be most unfortunate if that consultation were to be crippled by a postal dispute.

– Langley Times

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