On Friday, Aug. 26, it was announced the people of B.C. have voted to scrap the much-maligned Harmonized Sales Tax.
In the Cowichan Valley riding, 55.55 per cent of 23,899 voters favoured quashing the HST, and in Nanaimo-North Cowichan, 60.83 per cent of 22,650 voters did the same.
This came as no shock to Nanaimo – North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley.
“I think despite a campaign by big business … British Columbians have seen through that,” said Routley, adding the tax shifted taxes from big business onto residents and small business.
According to Routley, the rejection of the HST is also a rejection of a ‘deceitful political style.’
“It’s a call to all political representatives to be more forthright and honest about what their agenda is,” said Routley.
He added it is also important to look at the deficit before the last election, which ballooned past the predicted $495 million to $3 billion.
“They used the bloodmoney (federal government’s $1.6 billion transition funding) to reduce that number to appear to have deceived the province a little bit less.”
If the government is forced to repay the money to the federal government, it will be up to the Liberals to readjust their priorities. However it happens, Routley said he does not want to see British Columbians on the hook for it.
“They created this mess and it’s up to them to fix it,” Routley said. “Without doing so at the expense of the people of British Columbia.”
Routley said the perks of the HST were overblown, with not as many jobs created as touted and said that it was never a revenue neutral tax.
“It was supposed to reduce costs of products and services. We haven’t seen any price decreases because of the HST.”
As far as an election being called as a result of the axed HST, Routley said he could see one happening.
“We’ll be ready either way,” said Routley.
Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce President Rob Waters said the B.C. Chamber has always been in support of the HST and noted Ladysmith businesses will be affected differently by the trashing of the tax.
For the Ladysmith Marina, it will mean a seven per cent reduction in moorage costs, said Waters, but for other businesses, re-adjusting to the old tax system will be hard.
“From that point of view it is certainly going to be a hardship on some of the businesses to go back to the two-tax system.”
However, Waters can see many in the restaurant and tourism business greeting the news warmly.
“It certainly had an impact on the food and tourism industry for sure.”
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce is now looking for a more efficient PST.
“It’s a disappointing decision that will have a profound impact on the economy, on business, on workers and on unions,” John Winter, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release of the decision. “While we respect the outcome of the referendum and the need to restore a PST/GST system our members have been clear, we need a dialogue on what that looks like and how we can create a tax system that protects BC jobs.”