The man who led the campaign to scrap the harmonized sales tax in B.C. is thrilled by the outcome of Metro Vancouver’s transit referendum.
“It’s nice to see the people have a voice,” Bill Vander Zalm told the Straight in a phone interview today (July 2).
“I like it,” continued the former premier, following’s Elections B.C.’s announcement that voters rejected a proposed 0.5-percent increase in the sales tax to fund a $7.5-billion regional transportation plan.
Voters delivered an overwhelming 62 percent “no” vote, and according to Vander Zalm, that sends a strong message.
“The voters are fed up with high taxes and taxes in so many different ways that they’re really saying, ‘We can’t take it anymore,’” he said. “It’s not big business, it’s not the wealthy people, it’s the average person that bears the brunt of all of these. So you know, I think the people are saying, “Enough is enough,” and governments are going to have to look at changing things. That’s all there is to it. I know it may not be popular with the bureaucracy, it might not be popular with the high up, but they’ll have to change things.”
Vander Zalm also had something to say about voters rejecting the “yes” campaign mounted by a formidable coalition of businesses, labour unions, nonprofits, and politicians.
“Isn’t that wonderful that all of these influences that really don’t relate to the average person enough anyway were wrong?” he asked.
Vander Zalm continued: “Big business, unions, governments, they’re not the ones that are paying the bills. It’s the average person that pays the bills. They want out.”
According to Vander Zalm, asking for voters’ support for a new tax hike could have been done differently.
“If you make it too easy for government agencies or governments, they don’t look at where it is they might save and there’s a lot of places where they can cut corners, do things more efficiently, and eliminate waste,” the former premier said. “And that’s what they should have been emphasizing and they were not. They were simply, the message was, ‘We need more money, you’ve got to pay.’ I think had they instead approached it differently and looked at saving money, cutting costs, and eliminating waste, then they could have reasonably asked for money if they still ran short.”