The man who killed the harmonized sales tax in B.C. is voting no in Metro Vancouver’s transit referendum.
“It’s another tax hike, and it’s a tax hike that will impact mostly on people that can least afford it,” Bill Vander Zalm told the Straight in a phone interview.
Lower Mainland residents will vote by mail from March 16 to May 29, 2015 to approve or reject a 0.5 percent increase in the provincial sales tax collected in the region for new TransLink projects.
“I can see so much waste in government, in transit, in all of those things,” Vander Zalm said. “And every time they run short of money, instead of cutting the waste, finding ways of doing things better, or doing things differently, they come for more money. I wish I could run my business that way.”
In 2009, the former B.C. premier led the campaign against the HST, which was introduced to replace federal and provincial sales taxes with a 12 percent levy on goods and services.
In addition to getting rid of the HST, the Vander Zalm-led crusade also ended the political career of then-B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.
Although Vander Zalm will tell his family and friends to also vote against the 0.5 percent PST hike, he’s not going to play a role in the no campaign being led by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through its B.C. director, Jordan Bateman.
“I think he’s doing a good job, and I’m glad he’s there,” Vander Zalm said about Bateman, a former Langley councillor. “We need a watchdog.”
Bateman doesn’t have the same profile as Vander Zalm, and that may pose a challenge for the no campaign, according to marketing professor Lindsay Meredith.
“The message is linked to the source. We know that from marketing research,” Meredith told the Straight by phone.
The SFU academic also noted that the 12 percent HST was more controversial than the 0.5 percent sales tax hike being proposed in Metro Vancouver.
A wide array of groups, from business to labour and environmental organizations, have come out in favour of the sales tax increase. However, Meredith suggested that Surrey voters can defeat the proposal.
“Surrey is a very unhappy TransLink customer,” Meredith said. “And there’s a massive voting power in Surrey. If the ‘no’ vote is able to motivate, organize that ‘no’ vote … God help TransLink.”