The anti-HST petition will be a "done deal" by next week, with the number of signatures set to pass 15 per cent of registered voters in all 85 of the province's ridings, organizers say.
Campaigners say they have collected signatures of 15 per cent - which comfortably exceeds the legally required threshold of 10 per cent - of registered voters in 71 of the province's 85 ridings. Chris Delaney, the lead organizer of Fight HST, said he expects the remaining 14 ridings to follow suit shortly.
"It's rocking and rolling now," Mr. Delaney said. "I will be totally satisfied once we hit 15 per cent everywhere. We are literally a week away from hitting that target, so I say it's a done deal."
The campaign hit 10 per cent of registered voters in all ridings late last week. An extra 5 per cent leaves a safety cushion in case some signatories are ineligible.
The petition has crossed the 15-per-cent threshold in Finance Minister Colin Hansen's riding of Vancouver-Quilchena, but has yet to do so in Premier Gordon Campbell's riding of Vancouver-Point Grey.
In an online chat hosted by The Globe and Mail on Monday, Mr. Hansen promised the government would take action on the anti-HST petition if it proves successful. If Elections BC approves the petition, it will be referred to a committee of the legislature.
"They will have two choices - to ask for the legislation to be tabled or to ask the chief electoral officer to hold a referendum on the draft legislation. We will make sure the law is followed," Mr. Hansen wrote during the chat.
A referendum would be a waste of time and money, said Mr. Delaney, who would rather have the legislature vote on the bill proposed in the petition.
"The government has drawn a line in the sand with the people and the people have drawn a line in the sand with the government," he said. "There can only be one winner in that if you are going to have a democracy."
Mr. Delaney said public-opinion polls already show that 85 to 90 per cent of British Columbians oppose the tax. The success of the petition, he added, confirms citizens want the government to scrap the HST.
Mr. Hansen spent most of the one-hour chat defending the HST, which the government says will lead to more jobs, higher wages and greater investment by reducing the costs of business. The minister also fielded questions about why the government sprung the new tax on British Columbians only two months after an election campaign where it was not discussed.
When asked why the government did not put the tax to a referendum or include it in the last election campaign, the Finance Minister replied, "[If]every tax had to pass a popularity contest we would have no taxes and no services."