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Recall David Eby campaign falls far short of goal

The petition was 13,712 short of the minimum number of signatures required to remove the NDP leader from his seat as MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey
B.C. Premier David Eby has survived an effort to recall him and force a by-election

The campaign to recall Premier David Eby and force a Vancouver-Point Grey by-election has failed.

Elections BC gave proponent Salvatore Vetro the green light to begin the petition Jan. 17, with a deadline of March 20 and a requirement to collect at least 16,449 signatures.

Vetro said Monday that his team collected only 2,737 signatures, which is 13,712 less than the minimum required to remove the NDP leader from the seat he has held since 2013.

“We may have lost the battle, but we didn't lose the war,” Vetro said. “We are continuing on with educating the public through Bill 36 as the focus and also to try and attract those that don't go to vote, and that usually amounts to 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the people.”

Vetro, an actor and former bus driver who opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates, said he was motivated to organize the recall campaign based on the NDP government’s Health Professions and Occupations Act.

The NDP majority rammed the bill through the Legislature on Nov. 24, the last day of the fall session, without debate on more than two-thirds of the bill. It gives the government more power over a streamlined set of healthcare regulatory colleges.

“When a premier, unelected, invokes closure, and only discusses and cuts off the debate … that was a good reason why I called him a dictator, because he doesn't consult,” Vetro said.

Vetro said his campaign had 77 volunteers. Elections BC registered 271 canvassers, 116 of whom were actively pursuing eligible signatories: people registered to vote in the Vancouver-Point Grey riding at the last election in 2020 and currently registered to vote in B.C.

Eby has won three Vancouver-Point Grey elections in a row, most recently with 12,602 votes in 2020, a 51.3-per-cent share.

During the course of the recall campaign, Eby travelled around the province, making big ticket, campaign-style funding announcements after predecessor John Horgan left a $5.7 billion budget surplus. The governing party also ran ads on Vancouver radio stations, promoting Eby’s first 100 days in office.

Vetro’s petition was the third recall try in Vancouver-Point Grey, after unsuccessful attempts to unseat BC Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell in 1998 and 2003.

It was also the 28th all-time failure since the NDP government of Premier Mike Harcourt passed the direct democracy law in February 1995.

Prince George North NDP MLA Paul Ramsey, the Minister of Education, Skills and Training, was the first recall target in 1997. The petition fell 585 signatures shy of forcing Ramsey out of of office and triggering a by-election.

Petition organizer Pertti Harkonen cried foul after forensic accountant Ron Parks delivered a report that found Ramsey’s anti-recall campaign overspent by $3,288 and benefited from union-funded phone canvassers.

The 1998 petition to recall Parksville-Qualicum BC Liberal MLA Paul Reitsma needed 17,020 signatures, but ended up with 24,530. The official count was never completed because Reitsma resigned instead of becoming the first recalled MLA in B.C. history.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach News had caught Reitsma writing letters to the editor in praise of himself, under the pseudonym “Warren Betanko.”