FIGHT HST FILES COMPLAINT WITH BC OMBUDSPERSON OVER MISLEADING, DECEPTIVE BC GOVERNMENT PRO-HST ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN
Jul 5, 2011 Press Release
Vander Zalm asks Ombudsperson to intervene over BC government deceiving voters on HST rates
VANCOUVER – (Tuesday, July 5, 2011) – Fight HST is asking the British Columbia Ombudsperson to intervene to stop misleading and deceptive BC government advertising promoting the Harmonized Sales Tax.
In a complaint filed today, Bill Vander Zalm, former BC Premier and Fight HST leader, ask Ombudsperson Kim Carter to launch an immediate investigation into BC government advertising that falsely claims voting “NO” in the HST binding referendum will result in a 10% HST tax rate.
Vander Zalm’s complaint states that government advertising is deliberately misleading because it does not indicate whatsoever that the “10%” rate would not take effect for three years and is entirely dependent on the current government being re-elected and keeping its promises far into the future without regard for potential changes in BC’s economy or finances.
“The BC government is broadcasting and publishing misleading advertising – pure and simple – and neither citizens nor Fight HST have any way to stop them other than an intervention by the Ombudsperson,” Vander Zalm says. “It’s extremely frustrating that this government can spend more than $5 million in taxpayer dollars to deliberately misinform them about a $2 billion tax shift they will end up paying for.”
Vander Zalm notes that the BC government exempted the HST referendum advertising from Elections BC regulations or scrutiny, making it nearly impossible to file an effective complaint on the content.
“Going to the BC Ombudsperson is truly a last resort to force some honesty on the BC government HST advertising as people vote,” Vander Zalm said. “Fortunately the Ombudsperson has broad powers and is independent of this government, so it is our best hope.”
Fight HST strategist Bill Tieleman says were the BC government HST ads subject to Advertising Standards Canada’s Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, they would have to be pulled off the air.
“These ads do not tell voters any of the relevant details of the proposed future HST rate change – that’s clearly misleading and any company selling any product would have to remove their ad – but not the BC government,” Tieleman said, noting that ASC has already said it will not investigate the government ads.
Tieleman said the relevant sections of the Code include: “Advertisements must not omit relevant information in a manner that, in the result, is deceptive. All pertinent details of an advertised offer must be clearly and understandably stated.”
Vander Zalm said Fight HST has asked the Ombudsperson to act as quickly as possible because the HST Referendum voting is underway and government advertising continues to be broadcast and published.
Vander Zalm says the Ombudsperson’s own website makes clear her office has appropriate jurisdiction, noting that it states the Ombudsperson exists: “To uphold the democratic principles of openness, transparency and accountability; to ensure that every person in British Columbia is treated fairly in the provision of public services; to promote and foster fairness in public administration.”
“We believe that the Ombudsperson has every right and responsibility to deal immediately with this government’s clear violation of these principles in its misleading HST ad campaign,” he said.Share on Facebook
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