New premier gears up for HST vote

Fight HST organizer Chris Delaney (background) prepares to speak to an eclectic group of protesters outside the Vancouver convention centre.

Premier-designate Christy Clark chaired her first caucus meeting in Vancouver Wednesday afternoon, and one of the most pressing issues facing her government is how to proceed with a promised referendum on the harmonized sales tax.

After musing about dispensing with a referendum during the B.C. Liberal leadership contest, Clark settled on moving the province-wide vote up from the scheduled Sept. 24 date to late June. But it isn’t clear how that would be done, or if it is even possible.

The vote is currently required to be held in September under the terms of the Recall and Initiative Act, after B.C.’s first-ever successful initiative petition last year called for the HST to be “extinguished” and the old provincial sales tax reinstated.

To hold the vote earlier, the B.C. Liberals would have to call the legislature into session to amend the act, or cancel the initiative vote and set a new date under the Referendum Act.

Whatever the date, a province-wide vote with election-style polling stations would cost an estimated $25 million. Elections BC would have to hire hundreds of temporary staff to run it, and preparations could take too long for the vote to go ahead in June.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James said in February it would take Elections BC about nine months to prepare for an election-style referendum.

Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen have both said the government should stay with the September date, to allow time for people to see the real effects of the HST and understand what is and is not affected.

A panel of independent experts is taking submissions on the HST until Friday, and has a deadline of April 1 to produce a report that will be made public immediately.

The panel is chaired by University of Alberta chancellor Jim Dinning, a former Alberta finance minister. Other members are former B.C. Auditor General George Morfitt, Coast Capital Savings CEO Tracy Redies and John Richards, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University.

The B.C. government has set up a website to answer questions about the tax. It details what has more, less or the same tax under the HST compared to the PST.

For example, car purchases are unchanged except for buying or leasing alternative fuel or fuel efficient vehicles, where an exemption under the PST no longer applies. HST also applies to parking fees, one of the services covered by the federal GST and now the HST.

Just Posted

Photos: Railway Days at Revelstoke Railway Museum 2019

Today was Railway Days at the Revelstoke Railway Museum. There was food,… Continue reading

City launched Tech Strategy 2.0

Revelstoke received $100,000 in funding to build on its Technology Strategy project

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Fire departments extinguish suspicious wildfire near West Kelowna

Crews established a fire guard and knocked down the blaze before it grew to one hectare.

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

15-year-old boy drowns after midnight jump into Okangan Lake

The RCMP and BC Coroners Service are investigating the drowning.

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Summerland cannabis shop receives approval in principle

Inspection now required before Green Gaia may sell cannabis

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

Most Read