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:
- Vancouver Kingsway, Kensington, Hastings, Fraserview,
- East Richmond,
- North Island,
That indicates an unhealthy class division that all Victoria legislators should think about. We must take steps to heal divisions before they become wider.