|Murray and Merv Evans staff Fight HST petition table in Nanaimo on May 15, 2010|
|HST fans ex-Premier Gordon Campbell & ex-Finance Minister Colin Hansen announce new tax July 23, 2009|
And that turnout increases my confidence we will see a strong YES to Extinguish the HST vote when the ballots are counted and announced on or around August 25 by Elections BC.
I believe that the YES side will take about 60% or more of the votes - for several reasons unrelated to my support for extinguishing and my role as Fight HST strategist.
First - every poll since the HST was first announced has showed majority opposition to the tax. Not only was this an onerous new tax but it was a massive broken promise - the BC Liberals told both the restaurant and new home industries before the election that it would not bring in an HST - and then did.
The most recent polling showed the gap had narrowed after BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark broke her own word and made the dubious promise that the HST would be reduced to 10% in three years time - and after the government spent more than $5 million on a massive TV, print, radio and Internet advertising campaign with your money - another broken promise.
The gap also narrowed after likely the most expensive and blatant big business intervention in a referendum vote we've ever seen in Canada.
Because Clark deliberately excluded all rules that would have limited and forced full financial disclosure of spending on the referendum, we'll never know how many million the Smart Tax Alliance paid for its own pro-HST advertising campaign. Or how much its members the Coal Association, the Petroleum Producers, the Council of Forest Industries or other big business groups each contributed.
But a likely estimate is $15 million - and every time I've debated a Smart Tax representative they've played dumb - claiming they didn't know the total and refusing to find out for the entire referendum. TV ads during the Stanley Cup playoffs cost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars per 30 seconds - add it up!
And throw in massive "robo-calls" from automated phoners used by Ontario-based Campaign Research and untold number of spin doctors paid to Tweet full time and you get a very, very big bill.
But not as big as the prize - a $2 billion tax shift from big business onto the backs of consumers, who now pay far more than their fair share - an extra 7% tax on hundreds of goods and services previously exempt from the 7% provincial sales tax.
Despite the changes, the massive ad campaigns and blatant prevaricating by the premier on down, the last pre-referendum polls still showed a clear majority opposed the tax and would vote it out.
Angus Reid Public Opinion put it at 56% YES vs 44% NO in a poll released June 9.
If that poll and similar ones were accurate and 100% of voters cast a ballot, the results would be a 56% to 44% win for the YES side.
But we don't get 100% turnout - and we know now that it's about half that at 52%.
What we do know is that the 705,643 voters who signed the Fight HST citizens Initiative petition led by former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm, Chris Delaney, myself and many others are more motivated to vote this tax out of existence.
Same goes for the nearly 7,000 registered canvassers who signed up through Elections BC for the first successful Initiative in BC and Canadian history.
And we know that every provincial and federal government that introduced an HST was defeated in the subsequent election by voters.
On the other hand, voters who were originally opposed to the HST - part of the 80% plus who rejected the tax in initial polling - and have been either mollified by government future promises or simply accept the imposition last year - are hardly likely to be highly motivated to go out and vote to keep a tax.
Put simply, anti-HST voters would crawl over broken glass to vote YES in the referendum - pro-HST voters - outside the business supporters who benefit and those who accept BC Liberal promises as gospel - are nowhere near as committed.
So if the YES side has a relatively modest higher turnout than the NO side it should win.
And any vote over 50% for YES - more than 800,000 of the 1.6 million - means more people voted to extinguish the HST than the 751,661 votes in the 2009 election that put the BC Liberals in power.
That would be poetic justice.
But nothing is ever guaranteed in any vote.
I've fought the HST since day one - here's my blog posting the same day Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen sprung this ugly post-election surprise.
It cost both of them their jobs - because they stubbornly refused to listen to British Columbians who protested this tax vociferously and were completely ignored with disdain.
Regardless of the vote results, that should be a lesson for any BC pollitician.
But a YES vote to get rid of the HST would be a lesson for the entire country and beyond that voters should never be treated with such disrespect.
Here's hoping it's a lesson that is taught and learned later this month.