BURNABY—Today’s referendum result rejecting the harmonized sales tax (HST) by a nearly 10-per-cent margin sends a clear message that British Columbians are becoming fed up with tax changes that favour corporations and the wealthy, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
“This is a victory for fair taxation,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, commenting on the mail-in ballot referendum’s 54.73-per-cent “Yes” vote to scrap the HST and reinstate the provincial sales tax (PST).
“The HST was an unfair tax—the wrong tax at the wrong time, introduced in the wrong way. The government made a critical mistake by failing to consult with British Columbians before introducing the tax, and clearly voters saw through its multi-million-dollar advertising attempts to justify it.”
The fact that 1.6 million people cast a ballot under difficult circumstances—including a summer referendum, concerns about not receiving ballots, and confusion over the process—shows that people cared passionately about the HST issue, said O’Neill, noting that more people voted to reject the HST than voted for the BC Liberals in 2009.
The CUPE BC president said British Columbians expect Finance Minister Kevin Falcon to keep his promise to restore the provincial sales tax with full exemptions. This means that things like restaurant meals, paramedicals, school supplies, dietary supplements, funeral services, and a range of other goods and services not subject to the PST will once again be exempt.
CUPE BC opposed the HST as a regressive tax that hurts poor people the most. The tax forces middle and lower income earners to pay a greater proportion of their income to acquire the same goods and services as those with higher incomes. For this reason, delegates to CUPE BC’s 2011 convention voted to campaign against the tax.
“After campaigning in the last election on a platform opposed to the HST,” concluded O’Neill, “they turned around and used it to shift almost $2 billion in tax obligations from businesses to families. Now they must own up to their mistake.”