2010 referendum result kicked into effect
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
On April 1, British Columbians reverted back into the GST/PST tax system after 54.73 per cent of referendum participants voted yes to abolishing the harmonized sales tax through a mail-in ballot referendum in summer 2011.
Three months after the BC Liberals won their third consecutive term in early 2009, Gordon Campbell announced to the province that it had accepted Ottawa’s $1.6-billion offer to transfer to the harmonized federal-provincial tax system.
Former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm, who led the anti-HST campaign, “Fight HST,” criticized the provincial government in delaying the switch back as another way for the Liberals to capitalize off the revenues paid on the extra taxes for consumer goods in BC.
“Not only have we gotten rid of a nasty, unfair, cruel tax, but we’ve also shown the world, particularly our country, that direct democracy can work as it should,” said Vander Zalm.
In contrast, Premier Christy Clark says the consequences from the return could outweigh the positives.
“Some folks aren’t celebrating the return of the PST,” Clark said. “The HST was good for our film industry, good for manufacturing, and for many other sectors of our economy,” she said.
BC will now spend the next five years repaying the federal government the $1.6-billion transfer, interest-free, they received for adopting the HST.
Many people in the province have called the turbulence surrounding BC’s tax switch political suicide for the Liberal Government. Former premier Gordon Campbell stated his resignation in a televised broadcast to the province in November 2010, officially stepping down March 2011 due to the outcry from the public over the switch.
Restaurant lobbies were among the most vocal of critics, with representatives claiming food and beverage sales were hurt the most. “HST cost BC’s food service industry a total of $1.5 billion in lost sales,” claimed Mark von Schellwitz, of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association.
While the BC government is still finalizing the finer details of the transition back to the original tax system, they have set up several services including a general complaint website for small business owners facing any problems from the revert to GST/PST.
British Columbians are set to go to the provincial voting polls next month, with an NDP majority expected by poll analysts.