HST protest heats up around B.C.

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      Just two months shy of turning 76, Bill Vander Zalm is on the campaign trail again.

      The former Social Credit premier, former Surrey mayor, and leader of the citizen initiative against the harmonized sales tax was about to arrive in Kitimat on March 16 when the Georgia Straight reached him on his cellphone.

      “I’m not young enough that I’m caring to get back into politics again,” Vander Zalm said. “This is just a good issue for the people, and somebody’s got to take it on.”

      On a speaking tour that took him to Prince George, Fort St. John, Vanderhoof, and other communities in northern B.C.—the first in a series of planned trips across the province over the next several weeks—the retired politician was upbeat about what he has seen and heard so far.

      “It’s obvious the people that have come out to the meetings are against the HST,” Vander Zalm said. “There’s no doubt about that. If they’re not already against the HST, they certainly are by the time they leave, because they’ll have heard about it.”

      The HST blends B.C.’s seven-percent provincial sales tax with the five-percent goods and services tax collected by the federal government. The proposed 12-percent tax would cover a wide range of products and services that are exempt from the PST, from restaurant meals to haircuts and bicycles.

      Graham Currie, spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Finance, told the Straight that the government is expected to table legislation before the end of this month that would implement the HST and repeal the PST by July 1, 2010.

      Currie couldn’t explain why the legislation wasn’t introduced earlier.

      The reason may lie in the way the provincial government intends to use the transition funding that will be provided by the federal government.

      Based on the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement signed by B.C. finance minister Colin Hansen and his federal counterpart Jim Flaherty in November 2009, the province stands to receive $750 million in transition funding from Ottawa within seven days of the introduction of legislation that will wind down the PST. The amount is the first of three payments totalling just under
      $1.6 billion that was guaranteed by the federal government in exchange for B.C. shifting to the HST.

      However, the 2010–11 budget announced by Hansen on March 2 of this year indicated that the province is using only $250 million of the first transition payment. It will spread the balance of $500 million over the next two fiscal years, in addition to the remaining federal transfers.

      The agreement provides that in addition to the first payment of $750 million, $374 million is due the day after the HST is implemented, and $475 million will be given the day after the one-year anniversary of the HST.

      Out of the HST transfer funds, the province has earmarked $769 million for 2010–11 and $580 million for 2011–12.

      This shuffle has prompted NDP finance critic and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston to charge that the B.C. Liberals are playing a shell game with HST transfers in order to fix the deficit in preparation for the next provincial election, in 2013.

      “It enables them to say that they’ve achieved their deficit target,” Ralston told the Straight shortly after Hansen unveiled the budget on March 2. “It’s a manipulation of the books.”

      While the B.C. Liberals may be able to present a balanced budget to voters in the next election, Fight HST, the grassroots movement led by Vander Zalm, estimates that the tax will cost the average British Columbian household $2,100 in additional expenses per year.

      “The real strong points are that what’s being proposed here is undemocratic, it’s illegal, it’s going to hurt the most vulnerable in our society—the people that are on low or middle or fixed income and the senior citizens,” Vander Zalm said of the message he brought to his northern tour, which winds down today (March 18).

      According to Vander Zalm, on his tour, he has signed up at least 300 new volunteers in addition to the 3,000 people who have already pledged to gather signatures for the anti-HST citizen initiative that starts on April 6. The campaign will have 90 days to gather the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in each constituency. If it’s successful, the government will have to either introduce a bill to scrap the HST or refer the initiative to a provincewide vote.

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      Mar 18, 2010 at 1:06pm

      Where do I sign up to fight this? Gordy and his boys don't give a rats ass
      about the small guy. There'a an ad that says there is over 1,000'000 in
      this country who can't afford both food and shelter. The province of B.C. has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country and the goverment is going to make it worse just so they look good when they bring their budget down.

      glen p robbins

      Mar 18, 2010 at 3:10pm

      A successful campaign to rid the province of The Campbellian HST ("Hereinafter THC") will make Bill Vander Zalm -- BC's new political comeback 'kid' even if he isn't interested in running for election


      Mar 19, 2010 at 3:41am

      Make sure you're registered to vote by April 5, or you won't be able to sign the anti-HST initiative petition!

      Sorry glen..

      Mar 19, 2010 at 2:28pm

      Zalm is the man.

      Bill to lead the BC Conservatives!

      glen p robbins

      Mar 20, 2010 at 8:14am

      No apology required --- Bill Vander Zalm is very charismatic and loads of fun---.

      {Wait 'til they get a 'loada me'}--


      Mar 22, 2010 at 2:28pm

      Government gets in the way of life.


      Mar 22, 2010 at 3:14pm

      I don't know what's funnier...Wee Willie Wooden Shoes believing he'll revoke a tax that's already done deal OR his line up of freaks, geeks and followers who - only 20 years ago - were the same people calling for Zalm's head on a stick.

      Swing with the breeze much hypocrites?

      glen p robbins

      Mar 22, 2010 at 4:57pm

      I don't believe you can ever call voters "hypocrites". Fickle, maybe even ignorant -- but not hypocrites.

      What are the real benefits of democracy in this environment for voters? Not very much for the amount they must pay.

      I get tired of watching Seinfeld after awhile -- but eventually come back to it from time to time--??


      Mar 22, 2010 at 9:13pm

      Dude...Bill Vander Zalm...I don't think there even trying

      woodrow skully

      Mar 23, 2010 at 2:19am

      As long as we all seem to think of government as our dad, we should expect to pay for it. Collective stupidity is not an excuse, although it is a valid reason for our woes. Socialism ain't free, fools