Former B.C. premier needs to collect 300,000 signatures to stop HST
BILL Vander Zalm, the former Social Credit premier of British Columbia, is leading a grassroots movement against the dreaded harmonized sales tax.
His task is daunting. A citizen’s initiative like this has never succeeded before. In order for his endeavour to succeed, he must obtain signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the 85 ridings in B.C. on his petition. That’s about 300,000 signatures. And it has to happen in 90 days, starting April 6. He is using the recall and initiative legislation that he helped draft 20 years ago, and which the NDP finally brought into law in 1995.
Against all odds, I believe he will achieve his objective.
Some background: Shortly after last year’s election, citizens were told that B.C. must have an HST, to take effect July 1, 2010. There had been nary a whisper of this appalling idea during the campaign. In fact, various groups were told that there were no plans to introduce such a tax.
After the election, HST was quickly passed into law by the B.C. Liberal majority government. We now face a 12 per cent sales tax on many goods and services that were only taxed at five per cent before. The additional seven per cent tax will be added onto everyday items from haircuts to restaurant meals to funerals to new homes to plumbers and lawyers ... the list goes on and on.
The official reason, given over and over again by Premier Gordon Campbell, is that “British Columbia MUST do this in order to ‘remain competitive’ with Ontario.”
A similar HST is to come into effect in Ontario this July. I wonder if the official reason in Ontario is the same — only reversing “B.C.” and “Ontario” in the explanation?
I also wonder which government department worries about staying competitive with, say, Alberta or Oregon, neither of which has sales taxes?
The HST is a scam. It represents a windfall profit for a desperate provincial government. It will levy an additional seven tax points on at least 20 per cent of goods and services that were not previously subject to provincial sales tax.
Consumption taxes, while currently in vogue among the liberal elite, are fundamentally unfair. Income tax is the only fair way to levy taxes on people, because it is the only tax that’s based on people’s ability to pay.
Consumption taxes are regressive. Poor people pay at exactly the same rate as rich people. While the very poor might get a rebate of a few dollars once a quarter (if they have an address), it is a pittance compared to what they have paid.
Income taxes are progressive. Those with higher incomes pay at a higher rate than those with low incomes. In Canada, the top 10 per cent of income earners contribute more than 50 per cent of government revenues.
Further, unlike income taxes, consumption taxes are optional. Some people think that sales taxes will nail “the rich,” but the rich are not stupid. That’s why they’re rich. They gravitate to lower tax regimes like water seeks its own level. It’s basic economics 101. It’s also legal, unlike income tax evasion.
Even middle class British Columbians regularly hop across the border to Bellingham to shop because their taxes are lower than our taxes. Alberta and Oregon are only a few hours away, and they have no sales taxes. Only the least advantaged are stuck paying the higher tax.
Vander Zalm predicts that HST will give a big boost to the underground economy, as people scramble to avoid paying more for services that used be untaxed.
Consumption taxes also discourage consumption! A strong economy needs people to spend money and buy stuff. The HST is a terrible idea, especially given the current fragile economic situation we find ourselves in.
If Vander Zalm’s petition is successful, an allparty committee of the legislature would have four months to decide whether to scrap the legislation or hold a non-binding referendum, which some say the government would simply ignore.
To flaunt the will of the citizens would be done at their peril though. Maybe our government will come to its senses before July 1. I doubt it, though. The HST was introduced under false pretenses and it is being rammed down citizens’ throats by a government that counts on voters having short memories. As a voter, I get miffed when people don’t tell the truth, especially during elections. Needless to say, I will be signing Vander Zalm’s petition.