Freedom of Speech? Not until you Pay The Fee

Here in British Columbia there is a pending referendum on the Hated Sales Tax (HST), or as it's called in government circles as the Harmonized Sales Tax.  While both sides wage the war over the HST, some municipalities are hell-bent on restricting our Right to Freedom of Speech on this upcoming vote... unless you Pay The Fee, that is.

The BC Government (Liberals) lied to voters prior to the last election, but the instant the Liberals won that election, they immediately began the process of implementing the HST.  There are some who've claimed the Liberals were planning for this even before the election.

The years between then and now have been filled with lawsuits and calls for referendums, and the government was finally forced to bow to public pressure, the breadth of which has not been seen in this country in a very long  time.

That brief (and highly incomplete) history of the Hated Sales Tax in BC brings us to today.  Ballots for the referendum are being mailed out during the Canada Post strike, naturally, and the government couldn't be happier.

Christie Clarke, BC's unelected Premier who took over after Gordon Campbell resigned in disgrace over this very issue, is just looking out for us.

Instead of holding an actual electoral vote on the issue this coming November, she's moved the date forward to help us (and coincide with the postal strike?).   She also claims it will cost less than a regular ballot process.

In true Orwellian PoliticSpeak (up is down, wrong is right), the government has worded the question backwards, no doubt counting on the "dumb voters" to screw it up.

How could the voting public possibly know better than the politicians sucking the lifeblood out of each and every one of us through ever-higher taxation, right?

Here's the question from our political betters...

“Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST and reinstating the Provincial Sales Tax in conjunction with the GST?

Yes or No.”

Seems simple enough, right?  Or will people make the assumption that a "No" vote means scrapping the HST, like the answer to a simple question such as "Do you want to keep the HST, Yes or No?"

Opposition to the HST continues unabated across the province, but there are places where speaking out about the upcoming vote is forbidden unless, of course, you Pay The Required Fee, first.

Freedom of Speech, just as long as you can afford to pay it.

Isn't Canada great?  (not)

Take Chilliwack, British Columbia, for example.

Chilliwack has a bylaw that prohibits your right to freedom of speech and political expression.  Earlier this week "Mayor [Sharon] Gaetz wasted no time in dispatching anti-democracy city crews that scoured the city" tearing down hundreds of signs urging people to Vote Yes to scrap the HST, said Glen Thompson, a local Fight HST organizer.

You're welcome to post signs of a political nature and as you are entitled to by your Charter Right to Freedom of Speech... you just have to pay the $500 fee first.

If you are, for example, not able to pay the $500 fee (they call it a deposit) then any signs you put up will be pulled down by defacto government censors, here in the form of city workers.

Participation in democracy is contingent upon being able to come up with $500 in Chilliwack.  Mayor Gaetz apparently believes in this policy although she wasn't the one who passed the motion.  It's been on the books for some time.

Chilliwack's Sign Bylaw 3005 was passed in 2004, and under that bylaw it is illegal to post any sign without first paying for a permit.

Glen Thomson and fellow Anti-HST organizer Clive Edwards believe the bylaw violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but didn't say whether they would take the matter to court.

Other municipalities, such as Surrey, do not have fees and city workers often clean up signs after elections are over.

Chilliwack's Mayor contended that the bylaw was "consistent with the principles of democracy because those people who do not agree with your views should hot have to pay to clean up your election signs."

Personally, I feel a need to call "bullshit" on the good Mayor.  She is the one who ordered city crews out to "clean up" the Anti-HST signs the other day, long before the vote actually takes place.

That's anti-democratic censorship, pure and simple.

It appears that Chilliwack Mayor Gaetz has checked her principles at the door and is fighting, on the provincial government's behalf, to keep a tax in place that the people of this province have already overwhelmingly shown they Hate.

Chilliwack's taxpayers ought to be up in arms over this blatant attack on the will of the people.

With luck she will be shown the door in the next civic election, because any elected official who holds our Charter Rights in such low esteem needs to be removed from that office.

Fight HST campaigners (left to right) Clive Edwards, Glen Thompson and Gwen O’Mahony went to city hall on Friday to pay for a permit and to get signs back city workers took down earlier in the week. Photograph by: Paul J. Henderson, TIMES

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