B.C. residents, in a show of force to voice their opinions, have become the first in Canada to reject a tax policy, voting 54 per cent against the harmonized sales tax!
(above)British Columbia Premier Christy Clark answers questions about the HST referendum results.
The HST was brought in by the B.C. Liberals after they won their third straight majority in 2009 and has proven to be one of the most unpopular policy moves in the past decade. The loud and persistent opposition to the HST forced the government to hold a referendum on the issue.
The results came back Friday.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon will hold a news conference later on Friday to announce what the government will do next.
B.C. brought in the HST on July 1, 2010, combining the provincial sales tax of 7 per cent with the federal goods and services tax for a combined 12 per cent tax on goods and services in the province. Ontario also brought in the HST at the same time but does not have recall legislation like B.C. does, which became law more than a dozen years ago but has not been successfully used until now.
Despite B.C.’s referendum — which cost about $10 million to hold, and voters used mail-in ballots to vote — Ontario’s finance minister Dwight Duncan said this week his government remains committed to keeping the HST.
Simon Fraser University public policy professor Douglas McArthur said Thursday the biggest pressure remains on Premier Christy Clark who took over from Gordon Campbell earlier this year.
Campbell resigned last November in the middle of his third straight majority mandate after his popularity and that of the governing Liberals plummeted over vocal opposition to the HST.
The Liberals have promised residents that if the HST remains, it will fall eventually to a combined 10 per cent, which is two per cent lower than the current 12 per cent consumers pay.
Until now, McArthur said Clark has not been clear about the financial implications if voters reject the HST.
One of the major pressing issues if the government is forced to withdraw from harmonization is what to do with the $1.6 billion B.C. received from the federal government in order to combine the provincial and federal sales tax.
“There’s going to be some happy people on one side and a lot of business people who won’t be happy,” said McArthur.
“Whatever happens, Christy Clark can’t do any clever backtracking. There can’t be any more game playing. Voters here have proven they’re intelligent and willing to stand up to a government that tried to treat them as if their opinions didn’t matter.”
Is it a good thing to remove the H.S.T.? Or will this cause more problems than it solves?