Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Monday, June 14, 2010)

CFTK's video coverage of Seafest, news from the School District and a look at Blair Lekstrom's resignation from the Campbell cabinet highlight the Monday news items.

Daily News, front page, headline story
LIBERAL MINISTER STEPS DOWN IN PROTEST OF HST STAND OF GOVERNMENT-- The Daily catches up to last weeks political earthquake in Victoria which saw Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom resign his caucus and cabinet position in protest over the Premier's HST plans. As we outlined on the blog last week, Lekstrom is one of what could be a number of potential defectors to the cause who may provide more headaches for the Premier's taxation plans.

Last week's gathering of the Prince Rupert Port Authority AGM is recounted in the daily newspaper as they outline the positive theme of those sessions which were held at the Crest Hotel.

Education is covered in two themes on Monday, with a review of the divisions in place between the School District and its teachers, while a more positive note outlines the academic achievements at both PRSS and CHSS at the year end award ceremonies.

The Sports section features reviews of women's golf, street hockey and volleyball which were some of the events of a busy Seafest weekend.

(Daily News Archive items for Monday, June 14, 2010)

Liberal Minister steps down in protest of HST stance of gov’t 
PRPA AGM - dreams come true
School board, teachers in dispute
Two heads are better than one 
Harvard study points out shortcomings of FN consultation process 

 The Northern View
No new items were posted on the Northern View website for Monday.

CFTK TV 7 News
Credit Union CEO Passes Away -- CFTK provides its review of the passing of Northern Savings Credit Union CEO Mike Tarr, as we outlined on the blog over the weekend, word of the passing of the long time Rupertite was announced on Friday (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
James Salutes Lekstrom for HST Stance -- The NDP opposition leader took time out of her tour of the Northwest to comment on last week's resignation of Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom (see article here) (CFTK's Sahar Nassimdoost had more details on Ms. James visit to Prince Rupert, see video here)

Seafest Coverage -- We can relive some of the soggy moments of the weekend as Sahar Nassimdoost files a number of video reports on Seafest activities over the weekend, including reports on the Seafest Parade,  some Seafest Sports, the Soapbox Derby, as well as a General overview of the event.

CBC News Northern BC, Daybreak North 
Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. 

The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story
Liberal Minister steps down in protest of HST stance of gov’t 
By George T. Baker 
Staff Writer 
Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, June 14, 2010

The first departure from the BC Liberal caucus over the HST was announced on Friday with a spectacular thud. 

Top cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom has stepped down from his post as Minister for Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and from the BC Liberal party.

Lekstrom informed Premier Gordon Campbell on Friday that he would no longer be able to serve as a member of the BC Liberal Caucus. He said he will continue his duties as MLA for Peace River South.

“I was elected to represent the people of Peace River South and I have always committed to working with and for my constituents,” Lekstrom said in a prepared statement released to the media on Friday.

”I believe that my first priority as an elected official is to the people that elect me and then to the political party I represent. It is clear to me that the residents of Peace River South are opposed to the Harmonized Sales Tax and are unhappy with the way in which our government moved forward with this policy. The people of my riding face additional challenges as a border community.”

Lekstrom’s resignation comes on the heels of Campbell’s acknowledgement that the B.C. government had not effectively communicated with the public about the HST and was planning to take up the issue.

It is also likely to put heat on fellow Liberal MLAs to follow in Lekstrom’s shoes.

The Daily News tried to contact Pat Pimm, the MLA for Peace River North for reaction to his colleague’s resignation, but were told by his communications assistant Sheldon Brown that he was in transit on Friday back to his riding.

“I was surprised to some degree,” said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

Clearly, Lekstrom’s resignation is as much a boon for the Fight HST coalition as it is a 
setback for the BC Liberal party.

The Fight HST coalition of BCNDP and Bill Vander Zalm has claimed that they have reached their minimum 10 per cent threshold in every provincial riding.

Lekstrom’s resignation, said Coons, is icing on the cake.

 “I thought [Liberal MLAs] would wait a bit. But I guess Lekstrom has been in his riding for a week and he’s heard it loud and clear. I’m sure the other MLAs are going back home and realizing they are there to represent their constituents. For the last year they have not,” Coons added.

Lekstrom said he had wanted to resign on Wednesday but Campbell asked him to think about it for a day. On Thursday, it was clear that Lekstrom wouldn’t change his mind.

Northwest Community College Political Science Professor Hondo Arendt said that it was an opportunity.

 “This was something the B.C. Liberals were definitely behind and was one of the first things that was mentioned in the Crown Speech, but it has also proven to be unpopular,” said Arendt.

 “Campbell has become unpopular and there is talk that there is bound to be a new leader next time. It might be a good time for Liberals to position themselves as saying that ‘this isn’t the position I wanted’.”

 Lekstrom, a former mayor of Dawson Creek, B.C., first elected in 2001 to represent the Peace River South riding, won the last election with 4,514 votes - 62 per cent of the eligible voters in the northeastern B.C. riding.

Anti-HST proponents say 4,985 area residents have signed their petition.

The riding borders Alberta where there has long been a movement to get rid of the provincial sales tax, and it has been a hotbed of opposition to the HST.

Premier Gordon Campbell told party faithful in a speech Thursday night that it came as no surprise that British Columbians loathe the harmonized sales tax.

Campbell said he knew the tax would not be a ``political home run’’’ when it was announced last July, and he took part of the blame for the growing opposition, saying his government has failed to inform taxpayers about the benefits of the incoming levy.

But Campbell pledged to do a better job of selling the HST when it takes effect in three weeks.

He says unification of the federal and provincial sales taxes into a single, 12 per cent tax, is important for B.C. 

Campbell made the comments in Vancouver at the annual premier’s dinner, one of the B.C. Liberal party’s main fundraisers. The federal government offered British Columbia $1.6 billion to switch to the HST.

With files from Canadian Press.

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