By David F. Rooney
Revelstokians reacted vigorously to former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST Campaign with not only cash donations but pledges by dozens of people to act as volunteers and canvassers when the campaign’s province-wide petition is launched on April 6.
Vander Zalm, speaking before an audience of about 100 people at the Community Centre on Tuesday evening said the government is well aware that most (polls suggest about 85 per cent) of British Columbians oppose the Harmonized Sales Tax that the governing BC Liberals want to bring in. The HST will combine the federal GST with the Provincial Sales Tax. This new 12 per cent tax will be extended to most of the products and services people buy. It will be administered by Ottawa. In return, Victoria will receive $1.6 billion and, as it disbands it own tax collectors, a share of the taxes collected each year.
“Where is the democracy?” Vander Zalm cried. “All the MLAs on the government’s side are ignoring their constituents. They are ignoring the people.”
And if you think that’s bad, try this on for size: the HST is unconstitutional. Under Section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1967, the province of British Columbia has exclusive legislative authority for “direct taxation within the province in order to the raising of a revenue for provincial purposes.” This is the constitutional authority for the provincial sales tax imposed under the Social Service Tax Act.
Vaner Zalm said that by divesting itself of that responsibility and power and handing it over to the federal government, the BC Liberals are “breaking the law.”
In a two-hour presentation, Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney, deputy leader of the BC Conservative Party, shredded the arguments in favour of the HST and branded Premier Campbell and the governing BC Liberals as liars.
“We don’t believe they’re telling us the truth,” Vander Zalm said.
The HST will be extended to products, goods and services that are so far exempt and will pour billions into federal coffers. The government claims it will help businesses in the province, but the former Social Credit Party leader, whose non-partisan campaign embraces people of every political flavour, said the only businesses that will truly benefit are the largest and strongest corporations because it will help them streamline their accounting departments.
For ordinary British Columbians and their families the HST will be a financial disaster.
“A family of four in BC will pay an average of over $2,100 in new taxes under the HST,” he said.
Not only that, but because the HST is really a federal tax, collected by the federal government with annual kickbacks to the province, there would be nothing to prevent a provincial government form imposing a new Provincial Sales Tax on the populace. Ironically, just a few hours before Vander Zalm spoke, the Liberals voted to scrap the Provincial Sales Tax.
All this may make voters want to throw up their hands in resignation and despair, but they definitely should not do that.
“The people who tell you it’s a done deal don’t understand,” Vander Zalm said. “We’re going to repeal it.”
The Fight HST Campaign has a number of strategies in play:
- Their 90-day Citizens’ Initiative Petition that needs signatures from 10 per cent of all registered voters in all 85 constituences, If successful it will force the government to either vote on it immediately in the Legislature or hold a referendum;
- If the Liberals opt to vote it down in the Legislature, the Fight HST Campaign will ratchet up the pressure by instituting recall procedures agains government MLAs, perhaps beginning with the premier, a move Delaney said would “upset their applecart;”
- The campaign is also preparing to seek a legal opinion form the highest possible courts on the constitutionality and legality of the HST. This could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Delaney said that in the first month of the petition campaign they will focus on 60 per cent of the provincial ridings. In the second month they’ll gather the signatures they need in the remaining 40 per cent. If by the start of the third and final month there are still constituencies that are behind, they will blitz them.
“This is a legally binding petition because it’s done under the Citizens’ Initiative Act,” Delaney said. “They absolutely cannot ignore it.”
If the Fight HST Campaign is successful it will compel the government to cancel the agreement with the federal government.
“We’re going to repeal it and we’ll reset the clock and reinstate the PST as it is today.”
The audience bristled with questions and their support for the campaign was both immediate and obvious. Almost everybody made a cash donation of some kind — the campaign is very frugal and Vander Zalm and Delaney’s trip through the Interior over the past couple of weeks has been conducted on a shoestring — and dozens of people signed forms agreeing to act as canvassers when the petition’s signature drive begins on April 6.
If you would like to know more please go online to http://fighthst.com. You can also write to: Fight HST – 370 East Broadway, P. O. Box 95023, Vancouver BC. V5T 4T8. The regional contact person for the Kootenays is Troy Sebastian of Cranbrook. His telephone number is 250-919-4331 and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you missed this event a video featuring highlights from Vander Zalm’s and Delanay’s comments will be available on The Revelstoke Current by about 3 pm Wednesday.