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B.C. to vote on HST in $30-million referendum

Local anti-HST organizer Eddie Petrossian carries a sign as he walks to meet former British Columbia premier Bill Vander Zalm before boarding a ferry in Tsawwassen, B.C., on Wednesday June 30, 2010, to deliver the anti-HST petition.

DARRYL DYCK/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he will be bound by a referendum on the harmonized sales tax, which a legislative committee concluded today will be held one year from now.

"If a majority of British Columbians don't want to have an HST, there is not going to be an HST," he told reporters on Monday after a legislative committee voted to turn the thorny political question to a non-binding plebiscite.

Although the referendum law in B.C. requires a significantly high threshold to pass, Mr. Campbell said a simple majority of voters will have the power to force his government to back down on the controversial tax

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"If that takes place then its clear this was the wrong decision. I believe by next year it will be the right decision."

The committee heard earlier today that a provincewide referendum would cost $30 million.

It became clear as the meeting wore on that the Liberal majority would prefer a referendum, a position that prompted former premier Bill Vander Zalm to storm from the hearing room.

Mr. Vander Zalm is behind the petition that gathered more than half-a-million signatures, forcing the province to either hold a non-binding referendum or put the issue to a vote in the legislature.

Mr. Vander Zalm called the legislature a "crazy place" and said a referendum will be almost impossible to win because the threshold is so high.

The law requires a 50 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in favour of ditching the tax. That same threshold must be met in at least two-thirds of the province's 89 ridings.

He said his supporters will instead focus on recalling Liberal politicians.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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