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Vander Zalm book a template for marijuana lobby

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours


Some government will have to improve the initiative process to make it more democratic. — ex-B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm

If organizers for Sensible BC’s upcoming campaign to decriminalize simple marijuana possession want to succeed, they should turn to the man who wrote the book on winning a citizen’s initiative — literally.

Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm has just published HST & The People for Democracy — a 180-page book outlining how the Fight HST campaign launched the only successful citizen’s initiative since the legislation was passed in 1995.

And as Sensible BC canvassers hit the streets Sept. 9, the lessons from Fight HST offer some hope of victory.

The challenge is daunting, I know, because I helped create Fight HST with Vander Zalm and others in 2009 to oppose the Harmonized Sales Tax imposed by ex-BC Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.

Hard? You need the signatures of 10% of registered voters in each of the province’s 85 ridings in just 90 days — about 312,000 in total.

That’s 3,500 voters every day — and if you miss only one riding, you lose.

But Vander Zalm did it against all odds — and his book outlines how to overcome those extraordinary difficulties.

“The reason I wrote the book is because I feared that five years from now people might have forgotten the fight for democracy,” Vander Zalm told me Saturday. “It’s also a how-to book for other citizen’s initiatives.”

Despite his conservative politics, Vander Zalm isn’t against Sensible BC’s goal.

“I’m somewhat sympathetic towards this initiative,” he said. “Marijuana is now so commonplace that you might as well legalize it and collect taxes on it.”

The former Social Credit Party leader describes the multiple problems organizers face in an initiative, from bureaucratic hassles with Elections BC to finding enough canvassers — Fight HST had 6,500 — to media skepticism and logistical nightmares.

Vander Zalm believes B.C.’s initiative legislation should be changed to make it easier for citizens to force binding referendums — but still require substantial support.

Until the initiative rules change, the campaign to decriminalize marijuana or any other effort to use direct democracy to change policies will remain very tough indeed.

You can purchase the book for $20 — including GST and delivery — through here or by mail to Box 1, Delta, BC, V4K 3N5. Mention my 24 hours column and Vander Zalm will sign it.

Read more Tieleman at Email: Twitter: @BillTieleman


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