Harmonized sales tax extinguished

Greater Victoria ridings see overwhelming support to quash HST

The HST will be extinguished

The HST will be extinguished

The harmonized sales tax is officially extinguished.

Results of the HST referendum were released late Friday morning indicating that 54.73 per cent of the province voted to scrap the tax in favour of the GST/PST.

According to Elections B.C., 881,198 of the 1.6 million voters who participated in the referendum voted to extinguish the HST.

In Greater Victoria, 105,937 of registered voters returned their referendum packages.

Only one of the five local electoral districts, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, which also happens to be the only Liberal-held riding, saw a majority vote to keep the HST.

All four NDP electoral districts voted to extinguish the tax, with the most anti-HST turnout in Esquimalt-Royal Roads (57.96 per cent voted ‘yes’) and Victoria-Beacon Hill (57.73 per cent).

Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James says she’s “extremely pleased” to see such a strong, definitive result.

“It’s a very clear message from the public, to go back to the PST and GST. It’s a good day for democracy,” she said. I want to hear the premier call the Legislature back this fall. … I think, if anything, this vote says to the Liberals, ‘It’s time to get back to work.’ I want to see legislation introduced that will bring back the GST and PST in a smooth process in a way that works for small businesses and families.”

A relatively tight vote, ultimately 54.73 per cent to 45.27 per cent, was what most B.C. residents and politicians were predicting – a stark contrast to the public’s perception of the tax after it was announced on July 23, 2009.

In August 2009, one month after the HST was announced, an Ipsos Reid poll determined that 85 per cent of British Columbians opposed the tax, while only 12 per cent supported harmonization. (Three per cent of respondents were unsure.)

Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, says the numbers are perhaps indicative of the old political adage that “time will heal all; people will get used to the tax.” The numbers, however, didn’t shift enough to favour the Liberal government.

“This will be seen as a victory for those who were outraged at the way this was brought in and dumped on them, and how this was planned and announced,” he said. “There could’ve been many other ways the government campaigned or marketed this tax besides the little stick men and the promise of a far-off two-per-cent tax cut.”

The implementation of the tax is what angered a lot of voters, he said. Case in point: Oak Bay-Gordon Head was the first stop in the Fight HST’s recall campaign, which attempted to oust Liberal MLA Ida Chong in December 2010.

She became the target “because she supported the deceptive introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax and refuses to represent the clear wishes of her constituents,” read the recall application.

Ultimately petitioners only gathered 8,818 of the necessary 15,368 signatures (40 per cent of registered voters in the riding) from Oak Bay-Gordon Head residents.

“The Liberals said they opposed the HST in the last election campaign and then sprang it on unsuspecting voters,” NDP leader Adrian Dix said in a statement following the announcement. “Yes, British Columbians were angry at a Liberal government that had misled them repeatedly for more than two years. But they also understood that the HST would take money out of their communities, out of local business and make it harder to make ends meet.”

Prince says the fact that extinguishing the HST saw a majority vote in more than 60 of the province’s electoral districts – many of which are Liberal-held –should give the sitting government “sober second thoughts” about calling an early election.

It’s a victory for former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who spearheaded the Fight HST campaign, he says.

“(The Fight HST campaign has) been working on this for a good year-and-a-half or longer. When it first started out, people discounted the old premier and underestimated the discontent of British Columbians,” Prince said. “As most Canadians are usually accepting of the tax policies governments roll out, this is a pretty unique day in B.C. political history.”

Premier Christy Clark this week said she was bracing for rejection of the HST. Clark’s government has been working long hours to prepare what she calls “plan B” for returning the province to its former provincial sales tax.

Friday afternoon she spoke to the media and stressed that the way the HST was implemented – suddenly and without public consultation – could’ve been its downfall.

“I think that if the HST had been introduced in a different way it may have ultimately been met with a different reception from British Columbians,” she said. “It’s fair to say that’s the one hypothetical you can be certain about.”

Chong, a former accountant, said she believes the tax failed partly because explaining tax policy to the public is “complicated and … hard to understand.”

“I think small businesses, as they go back to the old style, they’ll be asking, ‘Is this the right decision, after all?'” Chong said. “But that’s no longer important. The decision has been made.”

Her electoral district was one of 25 (out of 85) in the province that saw greater support for the ‘No’ side than the ‘Yes’ side.

“It’s a vote we all have to respect. That’s the best way to say it to the 51 per cent (in my riding) who voted to keep it,” she said. “They need to know that around the province, that’s not what was felt. That’s the beauty of having a democracy, I guess – everyone gets to express their vote.”

A statement from the Ministry of Finance an hour-and-a-half after the results were released read: “An action plan has been established to guide the transition process and help ensure an effective and orderly transition from the HST to the PST plus GST system in B.C. The PST will be reinstated at seven per cent with all permanent PST exemptions. The Province may make some common sense administrative improvements to streamline the PST.”

Saanich South MLA Lana Popham is thrilled that the former PST exemptions will be back, especially on bicycles, something she was advocating for immediately after the HST was announced.

“The problem that people were expressing to me is they didn’t like the way that British Columbia was losing control over their tax system. People were quite pleased with the exemptions in place – it was a reflection of our values,” she said. “The idea that we’re able to exempt green options was something people were proud of.”

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has estimated that scrapping the HST will cost the province about $3 billion in the next few years. 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 that will have to be negotiated with Ottawa.

A provincial sales tax administration and audit centre will also have to be re-established, and businesses across the province will have to change their cash registers and accounting systems for the second time in two years.

The finance ministry also projected that the HST would bring in an additional $600 million in revenues in each of the next two years, based on economic growth and extending the seven-per-cent provincial portion of the sales tax to a variety of services covered by the federal goods and services tax.

It’s expected to take between 18 months and two years for the province to revert back to the former GST/PST tax system.

– with files from Tom Fletcher



Greater Victoria electoral district results

Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)?   Yes/No

Esquimalt-Royal Roads: Yes- 57.96%   No- 42.04%

Oak Bay-Gordon Head: Yes- 48.60%   No- 51.40%

Saanich South: Yes- 52.52%   No- 47.48%

Victoria-Beacon Hill: Yes- 55.76%   No- 44.24%

Victoria-Swan Lake: Yes- 57.73%   No- 42.27%

For complete riding results visit: http://electionsbcenr.blob.core.windows.net/electionsbcenr/REF-2011-001.html

Just Posted

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Influx of skilled tradespeople falling behind Greater Victoria construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

The price of gas is way up in many parts of Greater Victoria after a Monday afternoon surge sent it to 162.9 cents per litre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gas prices surge to 162.9 cents a litre at some Greater Victoria stations

Prices jumped up more than 10 cents Monday afternoon

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Research into the city of Victoria’s economic recovery through the pandemic shows things to be moving in the right direction. (Photo courtesy City of Victoria)
Data shows Victoria experiencing gradual economic recovery

Statistics for early 2021 show promising returns as Victoria 3.0 begins to take hold

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

Most Read