While the B.C. government begins the task of scrapping the harmonized sales tax and returning to the PST/GST, opponents of the HST are being advised not to let down their guard.
Terry Hand, Fight HST mid-Island regional coordinator, said the objective was met, but he urges vigilance from everyone involved.
“I suspect this government, or even the next government, if it isn’t Liberal, will try very hard to limit the effectiveness of the recall and initiative act or repeal it completely,” he said. “This is a very valuable tool that we’ve got. It can bring government to task and they don’t like it one little bit.”
The HST was rejected by 54.73 per cent of eligible B.C. voters through a mail-in referendum.
Just over 27,000 votes were cast in the Parksville-Qualicum riding, with 13,933 (51.57 per cent) voting ‘yes’ in favour of extinguishing the HST and reinstating the PST in conjunction with the GST. The ‘no’ votes totalled 13,086 (48.43 per cent)
In the Nanaimo riding, 11,661 (55.16 per cent) people voted ‘yes’ and 9,478 (44.84 per cent) voted ‘no’.
The Nanaimo-Cowichan riding saw 13,779 (60.83 per cent) people vote ‘yes’ and 8,871 (39.17 per cent) vote ‘no’.
Mike Delves of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce was disappointed with the outcome and said it will mean a lot of work for small businesses
“The transition to the HST was an extensive process for individuals to have to go through. We did a lot of work with people to get there and just when you think it had finally stabilized, we’re going to throw it all back up in the air again,” he said. “But this is what happens when you blindside people with a tax. The public was never informed what was wrong with PST so they didn’t know what the problem was and that we needed a solution.”
Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon said the people have spoken and the government will deal with it.
The B.C. government will have to borrow to pay back the $1.6-billion transition fund from the federal government, with a payment schedule negotiated with Ottawa.
“We didn’t take [the $1.6 billion] in one lump, so I assume we won’t have to pay it back in one lump,” said Cantelon. “That’s up to the finance department. We’re in pretty good financial shape and we’ll work on the transition.”
Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley said the NDP will be watching closely as B.C. transfers back to the PST/GST.
“We don’t see why it should take 18 months to transfer back when it took a lot less than that to move to the HST,” he said. “We also want to see very strong negotiations on the part of the B.C. Liberals with the federal government to avoid as much as possible any penalties.”
Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog it was no surprise the ‘yes’ side won and now is the time for the government to go back to work in Victoria.
“The uncertainty of returning to the PST system, the uncertainty of the election timing … all of this is all bad for the economy,” he said. “The good news is it sounds like there is going to be a fall session and an opportunity for the opposition to hold the government to account.”
Delves said in the end, it didn’t matter what arguments were put forth by either side of the referendum.
“The people were angry and this was a political decision, not a tax-policy decision,” he said.