The debate on whether to accept or extinguish the harmonized sales tax took a step toward dirty politics this week.
Three ‘Vote YES Extinguish the HST’ signs in Ladysmith, one in Nanaimo and one in Campbell River were altered to read ‘Vote No Extinguish the PST’.
Terry Hand, FightHST mid-Island regional coordinator, said someone went to a lot of trouble to sabotage the signs.
“They made sure they had the correct size of decal to fit over the ‘Yes’, they matched up the colour and the font and then replaced the ‘H’ in HST with a ‘P’ and also replaced the ‘H’ in FightHST.com with a ‘P’,” he said. “Apparently there is a site called FightPST.com and we’re trying to find out who owns that. Whether it’s related or not, we don’t have any evidence of that.”
FightHST volunteers in Ladysmith discovered three signs last week, took the tape off two of them, returned them to service and gave the remaining one to RCMP.
Another altered sign was found on Nicol Street in Nanaimo. Hand took it to the RCMP detachment and filed a complaint.
“It falls under mischief and the police seemed to take it seriously,” he said. “They did do a couple of interviews, but unless they catch someone in the act, there’s not much they can do. The signs have been handled by many, many people along the way.”
A fifth altered sign in Campbell River makes Hand think it might be more than an isolated incident.
“The intent behind it is obvious and it’s the intent that is the real worrying part,” he said. “If it had been just Nanaimo, it could have been somebody local not happy with our message. But it happening in Campbell River as well raises questions. I guess we won’t know unless more show up.”
Hand sent the Nanaimo sign to FightHST organizer Bill Vander Zalm in Vancouver and volunteers around the province were notified to be aware of the signs.
“We haven’t had any more reports and I hope we don’t. We don’t need this and neither does the public at this stage of the game,” said Hand.
Woody Hayes of the Smart Tax Alliance, which supports the HST, said everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the tactic of changing the signs is not condoned.
He said it would be easier for the alliance to put out its own ‘Vote No’ signs than go to the trouble of making changes to the ‘Yes’ sign, but it has avoided doing even that.
“I think it’s some enthusiastic partisans who have gone out and done it,” he said.