Dec 12, 2010 Guest Posts
By Peter Ewart
Just what is Phil Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors’ and Business Association of BC, dragging his member companies into?
Hochstein, the President of the Association and a close supporter of Premier Gordon Campbell, has launched a “Stop Recall” website using American “attack ad” methods to throw mud at the anti-HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) canvassers who are gathering signatures to recall Liberal MLA Ida Chong in her Victoria riding.
Using ominous tones the website claims that the recall will cause “economic and political instability”, “stunt economic growth in BC for years to come”, and cause “chaos”. It further suggests that the recall canvassers, who are labelled as “fringe”, “disgraced” and “opportunists”, have a “hidden agenda” and, without providing any evidence, claims that they may be “invading privacy” and doing suspicious things with the signatures they collect.
In response, the FightHST organization, which has launched the recall, has issued a press release stating that the ICBA website is trying to “smear canvassers in the riding and intimidate voters from signing the Recall petition”. FightHST is also calling for a boycott of ICBA member companies across the province and has posted a list on its website.
Some background on Hochstein and his association is useful in this regard. Hochstein has been a prominent lobbyist for the non-residential construction industry, especially for projects in the Lower Mainland. Recently, he wrote an op-ed piece criticizing municipal spending and questioning whether every community in BC really needed a “standalone fire department” or “police force” or “accounting department” or “parks department”. He also mocked municipal politicians who are using “taxpayers’” money to pay for their trips to the Union of BC Municipalities yearly meeting in Whistler.
Interestingly enough, in spite of all his lecturing to municipal officials about “taxpayers’ money”, Hochstein and the members of his association have been probably the biggest beneficiaries of all in the entire history of the province. Since Gordon Campbell came to power there have been numerous government-funded infrastructure projects, especially in the Lower Mainland, that have greatly profited non-residential construction companies.
These projects include the Vancouver Convention Centre (with its huge construction overuns), the Olympics extravaganza, the Port Mann Bridge and hundreds of other lucrative construction projects, amounting to literally tens of billions of dollars being shovelled out to the non-residential construction industry, especially the big companies.
In the past two years alone, the BC government has handed over $5.3 billion in taxpayer funded infrastructure projects to the construction companies as “part of its commitment of $21 billion in capital spending over the next three years” (Westcoaster.ca). So it is a bit strange to hear Hochstein lecturing others about “feeding at the taxpayer trough”.
But it perhaps explains why he is so vehemently in support of the HST, especially since it shifts the burden of taxation from members of his association to …. guess who? – the BC taxpayer. Indeed, it is one more example of how Hochstein and his colleagues have prospered very well from this government.
So, not only do we, the taxpayers of British Columbia, have all this tens of billions of Lower Mainland infrastructure spending to pay for over the next few decades, but Phil Hochstein is demanding that we also have to pay for the HST. Thank you, Mr. Hochstein.
But the member companies of Mr. Hochstein’s ICBA should perhaps think twice about where their leader is taking them. The HST is deeply hated by most British Columbians. We don’t want the HST, and we definitely don’t like it when companies that have been feeding at the taxpayer trough for many years are now advocating that the HST should be shifted onto our backs.
The member companies in the ICBA, some of which are also being hurt by the tax, should keep in mind that memories (and boycotts) can last a long, long time.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: email@example.comShare on Facebook
Tags: accounting department, business association, canvassers, ed piece, hidden agenda, hochstein, HST, independent contractors, lobbyist, lower mainland, member companies, municipal officials, municipal politicians, opportunists, police force, political instability, premier gordon campbell, residential construction industry, union of bc municipalities, whistler
Nov 11, 2010 Guest Posts
Reprint of an article written by Peter Ewart
“What should we make of a government that sets up a “racetrack” in which it reserves the clear and open lane for itself, and puts as many hurdles, pits and obstacles as possible for the runners in the other lane? Not surprisingly, at least a few of the people in the latter lane are bound to stumble or make a mistake. It goes with the territory.
And so it is with the “revelation” from the recently-appointed head of Elections BC that a handful of the 700,000 FightHST supporters may have signed the petition more than once. About 2,250 extra signatures, to be exact, are duplicates, which amounts to less than one third of 1%. As a result, 7 canvassers (out of over 3,000 across the province) are being “investigated” for allegedly “breaching their duties”.
Quite frankly, I would have expected more duplication and more “irregularities” given the province-wide scope of the initiative petition (85 ridings, many of them huge), the large number of signatures required, the extremely tight timelines, the confusing paperwork, and all the other cumbersome and onerous requirements of the Initiative Legislation.Share on Facebook
Tags: bully pulpit, campaigns, Campbell, canvassers, election officials, FightHST, initiative petition, irregularities, Liberal, many hurdles, mlas, Peter Ewart, racetrack, signatures, staffers, volunteer labour