Former premier Bill Vander Zalm and his FightHST partner Chris Delaney were at the Penticton Sandman Hotel Saturday afternoon, encouraging residents to vote to cancel B.C.’s harmonized sales tax in the upcoming provincial mail-in referendum.
Speaking to over 100 people, the vast majority of whom were seniors, while an ice cream bucket was passed around to collect money to help with the costs of the two anti-HST campaigners travels throughout the province, Delaney asserted the provincial government’s latest efforts to adjust the tax demonstrates the ill-conceived manner in which it was drafted.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced last week that should the province’s electorate vote to keep the HST, the tax will be decreased by one per cent as of July 1, 2012 and by a second percentage point in 2014. In addition to the current low-income rebates, he also announced new rebates for parents with children under 18 and some seniors.
Falcon said with those rebates taken into account, the majority of families will be better off with the HST at the 11-per-cent rate. And once it falls to 10 per cent, he added, everyone in the province will be better off than under the old PST/GST system.
Neither Delaney nor Vander Zalm are convinced.
“They are trying to bribe the people of B.C. with their own money,” Delaney said. “They are not giving you the rebate. They are not giving you the tax cut. They are only promising that if you vote a certain way and that is called a bribe.
“It is saying, ‘We are going to take your money and we are going to take way more of it then we said we were going to take. But to make it easier on you we are going to give you a little bit back.’ Isn’t that an admission that their tax doesn’t work? Isn’t that an admission that it doesn’t stimulate the economic activity; that prices didn’t come down; and that the employment rate didn’t go down?”
Delaney said that since the HST was initiated in B.C. last July employment has risen.
“We were told by this government that the HST is not just a good tax, but that it is the single best thing we could do to stimulate the economy,” he said. “Well folks, it didn’t turn out to be that way at all.”
Furthermore, Delaney said, the new rebate system Falcon came up with is not fair because it does not take into account people’s overall annual earnings.
“If you are a wealthy guy, let’s say you’re a lawyer or an accountant, and you are earning $150,000 or $200,000 a year and you have got three kids, you are going to get a $500 to $600 rebate from the government,” said Delaney. “But if you are a pensioner and you earn just over $40,000 a year between you and your wife, you are not going to get a dime. How fair is that?
“This tax is a disaster … Vote yes to extinguish the HST. Save our province. Save your democracy. And save your money.”
After the event, which included a 30-minute question-and-answer session, Vander Zalm said he was impressed with how engaged and informed the crowd was regarding the HST.
“Today’s meeting was fantastic,” he said. “If the meeting that we had today is any kind of measure then I would say that we are going to win this. But I don’t know what sort of an ad campaign the government and the business sector still has in mind. I suspect they will be pouring money into this, particularly on TV, for some time to come.
“We don’t have the money that they do but that’s OK because we have the people on side and that is who we need to win this.”