The latest phase in the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) saga is about to begin as we near the time for the people of British Columbia to decide whether or not to retain what has become known as the hated sales tax.
The BC Liberals promised to move up the date of the referendum on the HST to June 24. They have also promised to abide by the will of the majority of people who vote in the referendum.
From the moment that this tax was announced just after the 2009 election, you have been clear with me that you do not like it. Much of the anger from the public comes from the way the BC Liberals introduced this tax. The BC Liberals promised prior to the 2009 election that they would not cooperate with the federal Conservatives to impose the HST on British Columbians, but only weeks after the election they broke that promise.
Even those who supported the concept of a harmonized sales tax were offended by the duplicity of a political party making a clear promise before the election and immediately breaking it after the election.
The move to this harmonized sales tax is a shift of a $2 billion annual tax burden away from large corporations on to individuals and families. This tax shift generates no additional revenue to government for schools or hospitals, it simply ensures that corporations pay less and you pay more.
The people of British Columbia were so angered by the tax that they rose up and participated in the first successful initiative petition in the province’s history. More than 700,000 citizens signed the petition demanding the cancellation of the tax.
Ultimately, the decision to proceed with the HST was the downfall of Gordon Campbell as Premier. He believed that he could get away with breaking his promise, but he was wrong.
But the tax will remain in place unless the referendum against the HST is successful. We need to remember that those who benefit from the HST will do everything that they can to convince you to vote to retain it. They will use their substantial influence and resources to convince people that we just have to live with the HST.
We need to send a strong message in the referendum. A decisive vote against the HST says that we want not just tax fairness, but that we demand honesty from government.
We need to be absolutely clear: we expect better from government than we have received from the BC Liberals, and we will accept no less.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke.