Aug 26, 2011
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Bill Vander Zalm says citizens David beat HST Goliath in mismatched battle
VANCOUVER – British Columbians’ rejection of the Harmonized Sales Tax in today’s binding referendum is historic and a victory for the people and for democracy in BC, says Bill Vander Zalm, the former BC premier who leads Fight HST, the grassroots group that fought the tax.
“British Columbians have not only rejected an unfair tax but they have also sent a message to not just the BC Liberal government but all governments in Canada – do not break your word to voters after you get elected, “ Vander Zalm said.
“The BC Liberals thought they could get away with imposing the HST after promising not to before the May 2009 election – we proved them wrong twice,” Vander Zalm said.
“We organized the first successful citizens Initiative petition in Canadian history to force a referendum, gathering 705,643 voter signatures in less than 90 days from every one of BC’s 85 ridings.”
“Then we were outspent by up to 100 to 1 but still defeated a combined government and big business advertising campaign using TV, radio, newspaper, telephone and Internet worth between $15 and $30 million that was intended to mislead voters.”
“This has truly been a David versus Goliath battle and today the giant HST has been slain,” Vander Zalm said. “It is an enormous victory for the citizens of BC and for democracy.”
Vander Zalm said it is now urgent that the BC Liberal government quickly bring an end to the HST that shifted a $2 billion tax burden onto consumers and off big business by adding an extra 7% tax onto services and hundreds of items not previously subject to the Provincial Sales Tax.
“British Columbians are cancelling major purchases because the HST added costs of tens of thousands of dollars – to items like home repairs and renovations and new homes. The BC Liberal provincial government and federal Conservative government must repeal the HST as fast as possible because it is hurting the BC economy,” Vander Zalm said.
Vander Zalm said he expects the BC government to refuse to take responsibility for its own actions when it imposed the HST after the May 2009 election and instead paint a picture of economic doom and gloom.
“The reality is that the BC Liberals looked for a quick fix to their massively out of control deficit in 2009 and refused to honestly tell voters about our financial problems,” Vander Zalm said. “Premier Christy Clark should learn from former Premier Gordon Campbell’s mistakes and consult with voters about BC’s finances and seek a consensus, not make rash decisions in anger at the rejection of the HST.”
“The BC government needs to skilfully negotiate an end to the HST that takes place quickly and reduces costs to the province for this ill-fated mistake,” he said. “The $1.6 billion ‘grant’ from Ottawa to impose the HST should be pro-rated for the period of time this tax was in place, consideration must be given for the $ 30,000,000 + per month the federal government collected in income taxes since the hst refunds to business became a taxable item, and the excess tax revenue BC is collecting from what it claimed was a ‘revenue neutral’ tax should be more than enough to cover any money Ottawa is owed after the negotiations.
Fight HST Lead Organizer, Chris Delaney said the Referendum result would have been even greater vote for the YES side had Premier Clark kept her promise to fund both sides equally and had spending limits been kept in place as it was for the Initiative process. As it was, our $250,000 less the $25,000 we had to pay in HST out of that, was no match for the estimated $25,000,000 spent by government and big business.
Delaney says a precedent has been set with the HST Referendum: “No government, no matter what their political stripe, can ever again create a new tax, expand the tax base, or indeed implement a significant new policy without first obtaining the people’s permission through either an election or a referendum. The people have spoken, and voters on both sides of the issue agree – you must consult us first.”
“People can debate whether the HST is a good tax or a bad tax, but there was no debate about whether we should have a Referendum or a more robust democracy. That is perhaps the greatest achievement of this whole exercise,” said Delaney.
Fight HST Strategist Bill Tieleman said the defeat of the HST is a victory for both consumers and businesses negatively affected by the HST: “The HST hurts people who can least afford it. Extinguishing the HST will stimulate the economy as consumers begin spending again.”
Tieleman added that despite winning the vote, Fight HST will continue to call for an independent inquiry into the referendum process in order to find improvements for future ballots.
“Too many people did not get their ballots, despite being on the voters list, despite requesting ballots from Elections BC before the deadline,” Tieleman said. “We want to see a much better process for the next referendum because no one should be denied their democratic rights and we know there will be referenda in the future.”
Vander Zalm said the victory belongs to the people of BC, but most especially to the tens of thousands of volunteers who gave their time, talent and treasure on the Initiative petition that led to the history making referendum result.
“We thank each and every one of you for your tireless efforts in collecting signatures, distributing pamphlets, telling people about the issue, hosting town halls, driving around town on your own fuel to help organize. This is your day for a well deserved celebration!”
Vander Zalm also thanked the other Fight HST Board of Directors and organizers who worked tirelessly for months to coordinate the entire project.
“I want to personally express my deep appreciation for the incredible dedication of the people on our board: Rainer Schmoll who designed, branded, built and maintained the indispensible web site; Sal Vetro, who took care of all of our printing and logistics for the entire province; Cheryl Baron who organized the captains and thousands of canvassers during the Initiative petition; Corisa Nicole who organized all our volunteers across the province during the referendum; Kelly Carson for her determined fighting; Rick Dignard for his hard work and excellent advice; Jon Peters for his loyal support; and Patricia Storey and Jennifer Strelive for their superb skills as our Financial Agents. Thank you!”
Vander Zalm says he expects the BC government to wind down the HST quickly and return to the PST as it was with the same exemptions as before.
“All the bluffing and threatening is over now. It’s time to respect the will of the electorate and obey the results of the legally binding Referendum and move on. Democracy itself demands it,” Vander Zalm concluded.
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