Voters choose to extinguish HST

BC VOTERS have chosen to extinguish the HST according to results released this morning.

  • Aug. 26, 2011 6:00 p.m.

BC VOTERS have chosen to extinguish the HST according to results released this morning.

People voted 54.7 per cent ‘yes’ to 45.3 per cent ‘no’ in answer to the referendum question: “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)?

In the Skeena riding, 6,354 voters chose ‘yes’ for 66.74 per cent, to a ‘no’ vote of 3,167. a percentage of 33.26. The total number of valid votes from Skeena was 9, 521.

Premier Christy Clark has said she will abide by the voters’ wishes.

The total number of valid votes in the province was 1,610,125 with 881,198 voting ‘yes’ and 728,927 voting ‘no’.

After the introduction of the HST by the provincial government to replace the PST and GST after the provincial election, opposition rose against it, led primarily by former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who put out a petition, which garnered enough signatures to call for the unpopular tax to be repealed and the PST and GST to be returned.

The government responded with a mail-in ballot referendum with a deadline of July 22, which was postponed to Aug. 5 after a postal strike prevented some people from receiving their ballots in time for the initial deadline.

Ballots didn’t start being counted until Aug. 10, which allowed time for them to be returned to the collection centre in Victoria from the Service BC and Elections BC centres and time for them to be verified, said provincial elections official Don Main.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in a statement, said “The HST vote proves how powerful direct democracy really is.”

Jordan Bateman, B.C.  director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Citizens do not want to be spectators in the political process. We want our voice to be heard, and this summer, it was—loud and clear,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C.  director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Voting by constituency shows a split mainly along party lines. The strongest vote against the HST was more than 75 per cent in the NDP-held Surrey-Green Timbers and more than 72 per cent in Surrey-Newton and Vancouver-Kingsway, the home constituency of NDP leader Adrian Dix.

A narrow majority of voters supported the tax in Abbotsford, Fort Langley-Aldergrove, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Westside-Kelowna and other seats held by the B.C. Liberals. The strongest support for the HST was more than 64 per cent in West Vancouver-Capilano and 62 per cent in Vancouver-Quilchena, the seat held by Colin Hansen, the former finance minister who introduced the tax in 2009.

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.

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.

Another cost to the provincial budget will be re-establishing a provincial sales tax administration and audit department. About 300 provincial tax collectors were transferred to the federal payroll when the HST took effect in July 2010.

Businesses will have to forgo input tax credits available under the HST, and convert cash registers and accounting systems back to collecting the GST and PST separately.

The B.C. government finished the 2010-11 fiscal year with a deficit of $309 million. Revenues for the year included the second instalment of the federal HST transition fund.