Liberals pay price for miscalculation

The BC Liberal government never seemed to get a sense of the full level of the public’s anger over the introduction of the HST.

The BC Liberal government never seemed to get a sense of the full level of the public’s anger over the introduction of the HST.

That fatal flaw in Victoria’s logic resulted in the BC Liberals always being a day late and a dollar short in their efforts to persuade B.C. voters to accept the new tax. And now Premier Christy Clark’s government has been left scrambling to pick up the pieces.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon estimates that could take 18 months, as the province begins the process of reinstating the old PST/GST system, including the repayment of $1.6 billion to Ottawa.

While we’ll never know what the result would have been if the government had done more to get out ahead of the public’s reaction, it’s now clearly apparent that the province underestimated the voters’ discontent.

British Columbians overwhelmingly rejected the HST, with 54.73 per cent voting to scrap the tax. Penticton voters were fairly evenly split, with 50.5 opposing the HST, while Boundary Similkameen rejected the tax by a 59.5 per cent margin.

As the groundswell of opposition to the HST first began to surface, then-premier Gordon Campbell trotted out a tax cut that amounted to about $20 for the average B.C. taxpayer. The public’s swift rejection of that overture likely hastened his departure from politics. Shortly after taking office, Premier Clark rolled out a rate cut. But the timeline of the cut — with the HST reduced to 11 per cent next year and dropping to 10 per cent in 2014 — was met with the same skepticism as Wimpy from the old Popeye cartoon, who would promise to “gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

An immediate rate cut would have carried a cost to the province, but likely not as steep as the estimated $3 billion it will take to reinstate the PST/GST — not to mention the transitional cost for business or the political price to be paid by Clark’s Liberals.

Nobody said democracy would be easy.

— Penticton Western News