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Rustad's reprieve

Nechako MLA dropped from recall hit list

Nechako Lakes Liberal MLA John Rustad has been officially dropped from the anti-HST recall list.

Anti-HST organizers who launched a successful initiative petition against the HST are holding a competition to see which of 18 Liberal MLAs initially targeted for recall can sign up the most campaigners. The riding with the most will be the first to be targeted for recall. They've already signed up more than 2,000 campaigners, more than 100 in some ridings.

Rustad, who was dropped in the first week, didn't even know he was no longer on the list. Rustad said, in fact, he couldn't even say who was on the list. "It's kind of irrelevant. I'm carrying out my responsibilities as an MLA," said Rustad, repeating his stated position on the recall effort.

Rustad was the only northern B.C. Liberal MLA on the recall list, so his removal means no Liberal MLAs are immediately targeted for recall.

The Liberals also hold the ridings of Peace River North, Prince George-Mackenzie and Prince George-Valemount. Blair Lekstrom, who held Peace River South, recently resigned from caucus and the Liberal Party over the HST.

Anti-HST organizer Chris Delaney said Rustad was dropped because Mike Summers, the chief anti-HST organizer in the Nechako Lake area, had health issues, and nobody immediately stepped up to fill the spot. (Summers earlier said that while there was wide support for the anti-HST campaign, it didn't translate into an appetite for a recall).

Delaney linked the lack of a recall effort in northern B.C. to the coming winter months, which he said is not a good time to conduct a campaign.

UNBC political scientist Jason Morris said the size of the ridings in northern B.C. could also be a stumbling block, noting that some ridings in the densely-populated Lower Mainland can be traversed in just hours.

The anti-HST camp would also be seeking out the most organized campaigns for their initial recall attempts, and its possible those teams are not in place in northern B.C.

The Liberals have decided to take the initiative petition to a province-wide vote in Sept. 2011. Premier Gordon Campbell has also said that a simple majority of voters will decide the HST's fate, a lower threshold than under the existing rules.

The anti-HST forces are launching recall campaigns, they say, because they want the B.C. Liberals to hold the vote sooner.

Delaney said the recall effort would end the moment the LIberals agreed to overturn the HST.

The new tax - which combines the seven per cent provincial sales and five per cent GST - came into effect on July 1.

The change means consumers will pay the provincial seven per cent portion of the HST on some new items including meals, domestic airline tickets, funerals, haircuts and new homes over $525,000.

There are some exemptions on the provincial portion of the tax including gasoline, children's clothing and diapers. As well, items that are currently GST exempt, such as basic groceries, will not be subject to the HST.