HST forums wrap up in Nanaimo

A series of public forums on the harmonized sales tax wrapped up in Nanaimo Thursday, giving residents additional food for thought on whether to accept or reject the controversial tax.

A series of public forums on the harmonized sales tax wrapped up in Nanaimo Thursday, giving residents additional food for thought on whether to accept or reject the controversial tax.

A mail-in referendum on the future of the tax begins Monday (June 13) and continues until July 22.

Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney of Fight HST Society, and Kevin Milligan of the Smart Tax Alliance spoke to the crowd in the Malaspina Theatre at Vancouver Island University.

Woody Hayes, spokesman for the Smart Tax Alliance, said of the slightly more than 100 people who attended the forum, the majority were anti-HST.

“It was an interesting exercise. The forum was almost like a debate and the Fight HST were very political while we were trying to talk about tax policy and what was the right thing to do. They didn’t quite match up,” he said. “We were talking about the cost and the benefits, the issues and how the economy could be affected, and they were talking about matters of trust and getting the government back.”

Hayes said the forum was an important event for public in understanding of the tax.

“People are hearing a lot of information out there and this was an opportunity to question some of the people who are taking the lead in the initiatives,” he said.

While B.C. voters will soon receive referendum ballots in the mail, Hayes said the format of the referendum means campaigns for both sides will likely continue.

“You’ve got something like five weeks to get [the ballot] back, and during that time you’ll still receive messages from both sides,” he said.

Phone calls and e-mails to Fight HST representatives were not returned by press time.