Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HST Casts Long Shadow over May 14 BC Election

The Harmonized Sales Tax is officially dead, and so are the BC politics that spawned it.
Bill Tieleman and Bill Vander Zalm after HST Referendum win.
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 26, 2013

By Bill Tieleman

"If Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal MLAs don't listen to the people and drop the HST, he and his party are finished." 

Three years to the day of that warning from Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm, the harmonized sales tax is finished, Gordon Campbell is finished and in six weeks most BC Liberal MLAs will be finished.

On April 1 the despised HST that shifted $2 billion a year in taxes from big business onto the back of consumers will finally disappear.

While an extra seven per cent tax was put on hundreds of services for consumers, businesses got massive tax credits -- paid for out of your pocket.

So killing the HST means seven per cent less tax on home renovations and repairs, domestic airline tickets, taxi fares, basic telephone and cable, massage therapy, vitamins and hundreds more items.

That tax shift doomed the HST even more than the underhanded way it was introduced.

Despite some repeated media claims it wasn't the HST that was the problem, but only the way the BC Liberals brought it in and communicated it, ex-premier Campbell's ex-chief of staff Martyn Brown disagrees.

In his new ebook "Towards a New Government In British Columbia," Brown clearly states what Fight HST argued all along about why voters were furious, from his perspective as Campbell's long-time top political staffer.

"They opposed it because it was so clearly a tax shift that took more money from their pockets to facilitate lower taxes for business, which might make businesses more competitive and profitable, but that also reduced working families' take-home pay," Brown wrote.

"...blaming the HST debacle on communications misses the point. And that is, the decision itself was wrong," Brown continues. "It was wrong because of the governing party's stated position against the HST, before and during the election, and because of its failure to earn social license for that tax shift before announcing it as a fait accompli."

"Most taxpayers did not believe it would make them better off. They believed it would do the opposite," Brown wrote.

Gordon Campbell has long exited both B.C. politics, and even the country, after the HST made him Canada's most disapproved premier, with just 12 per cent of British Columbians approving of his performance by Sept. 2010.

And after the May 14 provincial election, most BC Liberal MLAs who imposed the HST will also be history -- either afraid to run or likely defeated, with their party falling to just 28 per cent in the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll versus 48 per cent for the New Democrats.

And Brown also writes that BC Liberal MLAs "...woefully underestimated the political price they would pay for their personal support [for the HST]. For most government MLAs that day of reckoning has yet to come."

No more betrayals

But the HST will cast a shadow longer even than the election results.

No provincial politician, from B.C. Premier Christy Clark to NDP leader Adrian Dix to future premiers, can ever consider drastically betraying the trust of voters by reneging on campaign promises after an election.

It's extraordinarily difficult to achieve a citizens' Initiative petition to get 10 per cent of valid voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings.

But the Fight HST campaign -- where I was strategist -- proves that government and big business advertising is no match for angry citizens and grassroots rebellion.

The 2011 binding referendum vote saw 55 per cent of British Columbians vote to kill the HSTversus 45 per cent wanting to keep it, despite an $8-million government ad campaign and a never disclosed but estimated $10 to $20 million ad campaign by the big business-funded Smart Tax Alliance.

No political party will ever think it can get away with an enormous double-cross on its own significant pledges -- and to even its own supporters.

Both the home building and restaurant industries saw the BC Liberals state that an HST was not being contemplated, in response to direct questions posed before the election, only to betray their political allies.

In fact, it was Brown himself who personally expressed the BC Liberal Party position that the HST was not contemplated, in his role as public campaign director in the 2009 election, writing that he was "utterly certain about that fact."

Some still believe that the HST was planned long before the election but my belief, supported by Brown's book, is that the BC Liberals panicked after the election when Campbell's promise that the provincial deficit would be no more than $495 million ballooned to an estimated $2.8 billion. It eventually came in at $1.8 billion -- still almost four times larger than promised.

A desperate Campbell and then-finance minister Colin Hansen frantically grasped at the HST and a federal Conservative government grant of $1.6 billion as the only way to save face and avoid the "fudge-it budget" they accused the NDP of in 1996 -- but with numbers 10 times worse!

Legacy of a 'fiasco'

Regardless of the timing, the results were clear.

As Brown rightly summarizes what the HST "fiasco" teaches all parties:

"The bottom line is this: if any government wants to do anything of the scale or importance of the HST, it needs clear, prior social license. Period. That was the main lesson from the HST debacle."

But if BC Liberals will pay the political price soon, it was ordinary consumers who paid the financial price for the past three years, with estimates on the average annual extra cost per household ranging from $350 to $2,000 or more.

That's because the HST not only was a $2-billion shift of taxes from businesses to individuals, it was also not "revenue neutral" as Campbell and Hansen repeatedly swore.

In fact, the government's own independent panel report -- long after imposing the HST -- found that it was raising an extra $820 million a year off consumers.

In the end, the HST legislation proved to be what NDP MLA Leonard Krog described as "the longest political suicide note in provincial history."

Those BC Liberal MLAs who supported the HST right to the bitter end, including Clark, will learn the true price of the HST on May 14.


Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm will be guest speaker at a Celebration of the end of the Harmonized Sales Tax in Victoria outside the BC Legislature  on Sunday March 31 at 1 p.m.  More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/497090093687554/

And Vander Zalm will be interviewed on Wednesday March 27 from 7 to 8 p.m. on Have Your Say – an online radio show hosted by Fight HST activist Sal Vetro - http://blogtalkradio.com/bcpolitics



Anonymous said...

Quite simply, a reverse Robin Hood tax.

Anonymous said...

Just look how long it took them to re-adjust back!

The next issue is when Dix and his people actually get a chance to see the real financial numbers pertaining to BC since 2001 . . . what happens?!

I have no doubt the BC Liberals have been keeping two sets of books for many years.

Frankly, the usual transition game should be adjusted to include the immediate search and removal of Campbell/Clark appointees (with security guard escort out the front door).

A criminal investigation should start day one into the affairs of the BC Liberals with regards to abuse of BC public assets (fiscal, resource and human).

Tens of millions of dollars of public money will be found missing, so this is not a post election change of power . . . it is an investigation into criminal enterprise.

There are people here who need serious courtroom and jailhouse time, not MLA and public service pensions and buy-outs.


Anonymous said...

And Bill, I don't believe I've heard the NDP saying they are going to get rid of the extra tax on "used" vehicles. Not that I'm in the market, but they better not play a game with the taxpayers on this! HST shouldn't be on anything it wasn't on before this disgusting tax was imposed, one way or another. No bs-ing from the NDP. The political games must end.

It is time for a "Judicial inquiry" (not public inquiry) into the liberals and start with BC Rail. There should be a thorough, forensic audit of BC Ferries, Translink, BC Ports, ICBC, Health Authorities, PavCo and that list goes on. Open the books to the people of this province.

Anonymous said...

And Kudo's to Bill T and Bill V
for leading the fight to get the Libs to eat crow on the HST. We still hear crying from the likes of anti union crusaders like Phil Hochstein who took the position that the oridinary joe out there did not have the intelligence to vote on the HST. Well...after nuking that unpopular tax we are now about to nuke the corrupt, lying political party that gave it to us.

Anonymous said...

Well more to Bill VanderZalm as he ignited the people's opposition.

and exactly how is this foresnsic audit of BC Ferries (remember folks the NDP neglected BC Ferries for 10 years and politicized it hugely). As far as ICBC goes, just get rid of it or allow basic insurance to be offered by private insurers and return motor vehicle registrations and licensing back to the Motor Vehicle Branch where it belongs.

But the NDP and opening of the books? Not likely to happen to the satisfaction of NDP blog contributors.

The NDP will b.s.

Be around when it happens.

DPL said...

The two Bill's and hundreds of other volunteers did what the government figured would never happen, got rid of the hated HST. Mind you the government dragged their feet and collected a ton more money by the delay, which pissed off a lot more people. The shifty deal they pulled on used cars boats and aircraft was managed by splitting them from the HST. Might need a court case to sort that one out.So good job, Bill, Bill, and all those other folks who said we are not going to take it and managed to break it.

Anonymous said...

Well it was Bill VanderZalm that ignited the referendum. People saw his actions and were attracted to it. BTW where is that Chris Delaney on all of this? He's disappeared.

If it wasn't for Bill VanderZalm's igniting the people on this thing, it would be nothing more than a Facebook collection of signatures and we'd still be paying out the HST.

Good luck in getting a court case happening on that. It will be up to the NDP to decide if used cars,boats and aircraft are PST taxed still. They should be. If a used car is bought at a dealership, it is taxed. So why should buying from a curber be free from tax? If it is simple transfer from immediate family member to another as a gift, there's no problem, but I hardly believe that buying from Darren P. Lotte for example is going to be a gift.

So it's the NDP's to handle. You'll have to go after them. Good luck in getting that one changed. the NDP loves taxes more than the BC Liberals ever did.

It will be interesting to see how Bill here covers protests over what the NDP does to the people and province.

Be here when it happens.

Anonymous said...

(remember folks the NDP neglected BC Ferries for 10 years and politicized it hugely).

How can we forget. You remind us weekly.

"the NDP loves taxes"
The Lieberals love fees, and could give a rats ass about the debt. Taxes well rise exponentially to cover costs of all the criminal investigations.
I hope there is an investigation on the German Ferries purchase. Low effeciency monsters they are!
Enjoy the ferry increase.
Be there when you do.

Anonymous said...

Why would there be an "investigation" of the German ferries?

Seems some blog people where want an investigation into everything. So how is that going to be paid for? What is there to investigate??

and what exactly what "crime" has been committed? Care to cite what sections of the Criminal Code?

as for the ferry increases, keep in mind the cost of a similar length trip by government subsidized ferries in Europe is considerably more.

and yes expect the NDP to politicize BC Ferries once again, with their own political appointees.

The NDP isn't going to deliver everything to everyone.

There's going to be disappointments.

Big time.

Anonymous said...

^^^^ PAB troll gets angry.
Insider trading and backroom deals with pockets lined are serious crimes. The Libs run parliament like a crime family!

Anonymous said...

So who's a PAB? Not me. Not even close.

Try again.

and try to keep up. It's only 3 weeks to the start of the provincial election.

Can think of the NDP being a crime family back in the times of the Commonwealth Holding Society in Nanaimo. Skimming bingo profits to go to NDP provincial campaign funds so all NDP campaigns got infected money back then.