Aug 26, 2011 Press Release
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.Share on Facebook
Tags: bc liberals, bc premier, bill vander zalm, british columbians, business advertising, canadian history, conservative government, goliath battle, grassroots group, harmonized sales tax, home repairs, HST, initiative petition, internet worth, liberal government, provincial government, provincial sales, unfair tax, using tv, voter signatures
FIGHT HST CALLS BC GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND RULES ON HARMONIZED SALES TAX BIASED AND UNFAIR TO CONSUMERS OPPOSED TO HST
Apr 14, 2011 Press Release
VANCOUVER – Fight HST is calling today’s BC government announcement of rules and funding in the provincial referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax biased and unfair to consumers opposed to the HST.
HST leader and former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm said it’s blatantly unfair that the BC Liberal government’s decision and big business HST supporter will spend many times as much promoting the HST as the inadequate amount it will give to HST opponents.
Vander Zalm says the government’s failure to place meaningful restrictions on third party advertising means big business will likely spend millions in advertising to keep the HST, which benefits them through a $2 billion a year tax shift onto the backs of consumers.
On top of that, the BC government will give $250,000 to business groups to spend promoting the HST.
“The government’s announcement today means everything is stacked against ordinary citizens who want to eliminate the HST,” Vander Zalm said. “It is totally unfair, totally biased against the consumers who are paying this terrible tax and want to get rid of it.”
Vander Zalm said that the BC government will spend $700,000 on a mailing to every household that will contain pro-HST propaganda “explaining” the HST, plus give $250,000 to a group opposing extinguishing the HST, plus let business spend as much as it wants privately to keep the HST.
But Fight HST, the grassroots group that led the successful petition signed by 557,000 Elections BC-validated voters to repeal the HST, is not even guaranteed any funding and at most could receive $250,000 – a tiny fraction of the amount government and business will spend to defend the HST imposed by the BC Liberals.
“All we have asked for is a level playing field and what we’ve been given instead is a steep hill to climb with a ball and chain around our ankle – that’s just not right,” Vander Zalm said.
“We will have to depend on the people power that allowed us to succeed with the first successful Citizens’ Initiative petition to extinguish the HST in 2010,” Vander Zalm said. “We will reactivate our nearly 7,000 Initiative canvassers and other volunteers in every one of BC’s 85 ridings and take this fight with government and big business to the people.”
“I am still convinced we will win this Referendum even with outrageously unfair rules because ordinary people know the HST is hurting our economy, hurting restaurants, hurting tourism, hurting new and vacation home sales and so much more,” Vander Zalm said. “People can’t be fooled by a slick government and big business campaign no matter how much they spend.”
Fight HST strategist Bill Tieleman pointed out that the funding for both sides of the HST Referendum is $250,000 each – just half the funding provided to both sides in the Single Transferable Vote Referendum held during the May 2009 provincial election.
And Tieleman says despite the fact that Fight HST is the only organization opposing the HST and led the Citizens Initiative campaign with Bill Vander Zalm as the legal proponent, the government has made no commitment to provide it with any funding.
“There is only one group – Fight HST – that publicly opposed the HST from the beginning, organized the Citizens Initiative, signed up nearly 7,000 volunteers through Elections BC as canvassers and is led by the Initiative proponent – Bill Vander Zalm,” Tieleman said.
“But we fear that the government could even further stack the deck in favour of the HST by denying us the limited and inadequate funding it says is available or giving us only a small portion of that amount and giving the rest to other groups who have not been involved with the Citizens Initiative campaign,” Tieleman said.
Tieleman was President of NO STV, the group which received $500,000 in provincial funding to advocate its position opposed to the Single Transferable Vote in the 2009 referendum.
“If you are going to have a fair debate and let both sides present their views to the public through television, print, radio and Internet advertising, outreach, public events around the province, information leaflets and websites, $250,000 is simply inadequate based on my experience with the STV referendum,” Tieleman said.
“This is a huge province, advertising is very expensive and we are going to get outspent by government and big business by a factor of probably 10 to 1 or more – that’s an unfair fight in the extreme,” he said.Share on Facebook
Tags: bc liberals, bc premier, bill vander zalm, business groups, government announcement, government funding, grassroots group, harmonized sales, HST, liberal government, opponents, ordinary citizens, petition, propaganda, provincial referendum, sales tax, steep hill, tax shift, third party advertising, tiny fraction