British Columbian’s have their voices heard on the HST

HST voted out

Darryl Crane

After more than two year since Gordon Campbell announced British Columbia would shift to a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) the people of British Columbia have voted to scrap the tax.

After months of campaigning by both sides almost 55 percent of voters cast their ballots to get rid of the HST.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonld said, “I would say it is a wonderful example of regular people standing up to fight a government that has lost its way. What people told me during the original petition, was they felt a lack of respect for democracy.”

Macdonald explained in this region 66 percent of voters wanted to see the HST gone.

“I think you would want to give credit to the volunteers here. I think the HST was problematic for boarder regions. I think for Kicking Horse or Panorama, 70 percent of the people coming here are coming from East of the British Columbia border…It was a whole host of reasons why people thought it was a tax shift that didn’t work for this region or for the people,”

The Province will reinstate the combined 12 per cent PST and GST tax system following the referendum decision by British Columbians to extinguish the HST in B.C., Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced once the final numbers were in. The PST will be reinstated at seven per cent with all permanent PST exemptions with the Province possibly making some administrative improvements to streamline the PST.

“British Columbians have made their choice and we will honour that decision. Now more than ever, government must provide British Columbians economic stability and focus our attention toward growing our economy to create jobs and balancing our budget in a time of global economic uncertainty,” Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon said. “We will work as quickly as we responsibly can to return to the PST. We have always been clear that, as the independent panel found, dismantling the B.C. HST and returning to the PST will take time to do properly.”

Leader of the opposition, Adrian Dix felt this was a victory for all people who live in the province.

“Today, we have the results of the people’s referendum on the HST.  And we have good news: the people won over the arrogance of the Liberal government and its powerful friends. It is a victory for fairness. For a decade, the Liberal Party has shifted the tax burden onto B.C. families. A return to the PST will be good for communities, good for families and good for small business. It will make life a little bit more affordable for working families. It will also ensure that British Columbia has control over its sales tax policy, now and in the future. And it is a victory for democracy,” Dix said in a statement released to the media.

Going forward Macdonald felt it was important for the things to be done in a competent manner by the BC Liberal government but said “We have seen nothing competent from this group over the past two years. It has been bungled from the beginning. It has been one mistake, one defeat after another but in the end people saw through it. I think it is an indictment of what has gone on for the past two years. It is an absolute lack of faith in the direction the BC liberals have taken the province.”

Doug Clovechok, who has filed his nomination papers to represent the BC liberal Party as a candidate  in the Columbia River-Revelstoke for the next election, felt it was now time for the province as a whole to look to the future.

“It is not a big surprise. I think British Columbians have spoken loud and clear that they are very displeased in how Gordon Campbell handled this initially and they let the government know that if you are going to make major social policy or economic changes then you better consult with us,” Clovechok said.

He went on to explain this is a moment where people can be sure their voices are being listened to by the BC Liberals.

“The Premier has made it very clear that she is going to listen to British Columbians. The Minister of Finance, Kevin Falcon, has also made it very clear that by March 31, 2013 the PST/GST system will be reintroduced at the exact same as when it left. Going forward we have a great opportunity to demonstrate to people we are listening to people,” Clovechok added.

Dix sees it as a time to move forward as well. “Now it is time to get down to business and address the real challenges we face – the economy and jobs, affordability, growing inequality, health, education and the environment.  It has been more than two years of a Liberal government that has done nothing other than the HST. They have let us down.  They have failed families,” Dix said.

Macdonald says it is now time for Premier Clark to end the HST debacle and get down to the business of governing.

“Now it is time for Premier Clark to act on the will of the people, and provide a real plan that provides British Columbians with fair taxation and the quality public services that they deserve.”

An action plan has been established by the BC Liberals to guide the transition process and help ensure an effective and orderly transition from the HST to the PST plus GST system in B.C.

The transition period is expected to take a minimum of 18 months, consistent with the report of the independent panel on the HST. During this period, the provincial portion of the HST will remain in place at seven per cent. Eligible lower-income British Columbians will continue to receive the B.C. HST Credit until the PST is re-implemented. The B.C. HST credit will then be replaced by the re-implemented PST credit.