Real messages of the HST vote

In response to the vote rejecting the massive shift in consumption taxes from business to consumers, Christy Clark seems to have learned nothing, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon only a little. Falcon today backed down from the claim that the $1.6 billion federal transition payment would be returned in whole. Now, he says that will be a matter of negotiation but he will not discuss his strategies publicly. Since HST will stay in place at least until April 2013, the federal government will have received three years of the five it bargained for so 40% at most will be returned.

Major issues in play during the referendum were:

  • Dishonest implementation of HST weeks after an election in which voters were told it was not under consideration;
  • Implementation of a massive change by the Premier and Finance Minister without caucus or cabinet consultation;
  • The HST was a $2 billion a year transfer of tax from corporations to consumers, with almost no flow through of savings by way of lower prices.

While the vote was a sound rejection of tax relief for business at the expense of consumers, it demonstrated that citizens want greater honesty from politicians. Campbell and Hansen assumed they could implement any tax measure and smooth over resulting difficulty by marshaling big business allies and circulating lies and half truths with costly taxpayer-paid advertising campaigns. That didn’t work.

The referendum result comes despite potentially overwhelming efforts for the losing side by the entire provincial government, stenographers of the corporate press and radio mouthpieces who had already sold their loyalty to business groups that provided generous financial inducements in return for favourable treatment.

The HST outcome appears to reflect the financial status of voters. Voting strongly to keep HST in place:

  • West Vancouver,
  • North Vancouver Seymour,
  • Vancouver Quilchena, Point Grey, False Creek, Fairview,
  • Delta South,
  • Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Voting strongly against HST:

  • Surrey,
  • Vancouver Kingsway, Kensington, Hastings, Fraserview,
  • East Richmond,
  • North Island,
  • Skeena.

That indicates an unhealthy class division that all Victoria legislators should think about. We must take steps to heal divisions before they become wider.

Categories: HST, Taxation

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12 replies »

  1. People are talking “class” and to me, the very use of the term is divisive.
    I think there is a widening economic divide – “the poor” and “the rich” and those “in-between” – or – the “have” and “have-nots.” The more we think in terms of “class”, the more that the division perpetuates itself and people start putting themselves into “classes”.

    Let's change the semantics – we're all in this together! Citizens one and all:)


  2. Norman–

    Those top five splits may also illustrate something that we already know which is that shifts like this that go heavy to consumption do disproportionately affect the less well-off amongst us.

    I listened incredulously as former online gaming booster Alyse Mills was allowed to spout, unchallenged by host Mark Forsythe, that consumption taxes are progressive while indexed income taxes are regressive on CBC Radio this afternoon.

    It really is unbelievable to me that 'pundits' are allowed to get away with such demonstrable falsehoods.

    (excellent post btw)



  3. I share concerns about divisiveness but you cannot ignore reality. West Vancouver, Point Grey, where typical houses are worth $2-4 million are distinctly different than Skeena or North Island. Income tax records show average income is hugely different too.

    As RossK said, the HST, given its wide application is regressive, compared to the old PST which had a well developed set of exemptions. It is the people of lesser means that are particularly worried about the extra HST burden.

    I have to retrieve medical records from my retired GP for the new doc. The charge is $75 plus $9 HST. Getting them is a medical necessity and applying sales tax on these is repugnant. This is just one example of how a consumption tax applies regressively.


  4. Sadly, where I live in North Vancouver Seymour, only 39.4% voted to turf the HST. People should have voted YES if only to send a message to politicians who dared to tell the electorate that HST was not on the table while their bureaucrats were negotiating the details of its application.

    But, when all is said it done, the new PST will look remarkably like the HST for its application and business exemptions.


  5. And, of course, this BC Liberal government has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted or believed.

    However, I do think the wider ramifications will be the rest of the Commonwealth will be informed that the people of British Columbia have voted down a tax – for the first time in history (I think). That in itself, will put the spotlight on the BC Liberal government and hopefully, their nefarious ways – for all the world to see. I am sure this will cause some interest and maybe a lot of embarrassment too.



  6. We expect nothing fair or good from the BC Liberals. That would be an exercise in futility.

    There is a huge division, in every aspect in BC. We have a two tiered judicial system in BC. Corrupt politicians, corrupt police, drunk politicians and the elite, only need a special prosecutor, a corrupt court, and a corrupt judge, to get off scot free. Just ask Kash Heed and, you know who. Corrupt politicians, are rewarded for their corruption, especially in Canada.

    Politicians in Canada and especially in BC, think it is their God given right to, lie, deceive, and steal from the citizens. Cheating to win is, most politicians mantra.

    There are very few politicians, that are worth the powder, to blow them to hell.


  7. $26 billion of future energy purchase commitments added by BC Hydro in the fiscal year ended Mar 2011. If that does not embarrass our Liberal politicians, I doubt that a 55-45 vote against HST will embarrass them.


  8. Living in Delta South, I would say that many of the retirees enjoyed their HST rebates. Still, I wonder what the percentage of vote was?


  9. Laila–

    I think the result in your part of Surrey demonstrates what Ms. Clark and those holding her reins are really, really scared of….Which is that Lib ridings a little further down the socio-economic ladder are now really, really susceptible to vote shaving by the Conservatives that could tip the balance in a general election. It is the same in Richmond where all three ridings voted to extinguish.



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