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NEWS: Harmonized sales tax referendum in BC, June 24

The Vancouver Province reports, “(British Columbia) Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon said Thursday that the (provincial) government will provide ($1.7 million in) funding so that British Columbians have as much accurate and unbiased information as possible ahead of (a vote on the harmonized sales tax, or HST, this June 24) , which is being done by mail-in ballot.”
“As part of this dialogue, Falcon said the government is offering $500,000 to be split by the sides opposed and in favour of the tax. An additional $500,000 is being offered to universities and colleges to hold public debates. The government will also spend $700,000 on a ‘comprehensive’ voter’s guide, to be mailed to every home in B.C., which will provide information on the tax as well as points from both sides, said Falcon. …Falcon said a limit has not been set on how much groups opposed or for the tax can spend, leading Fight-HST critics to call the process ‘blatantly unfair’.”

Key upcoming dates include: April 22 to May 6, a ‘talking tax tour’ by the provincial government; early-May, an independent panel report on the HST is expected; May 24 to June 10, a public dialogue through universities begins; June 6, a voter’s guide will go to the public; June 13, ballots for the referendum start to be mailed to 2.9 million voters; July 22, the ballots must be returned to Elections BC; August, the results of the referendum will be known; July 1, 2012, the date the HST could be changed.

Last summer, the British Columbia Federation of Labour said, “Introduced days after the Liberals were re-elected, even though they ruled it out during the election campaign, the HST is a thoroughly dishonest tax. Its introduction showed contempt for voters and a disdain for democracy. This is not how tax policy should be developed. …Furthermore, the labour movement simply cannot accept a tax that takes $2 billion from the pockets of British Columbians, many of whom are having trouble making ends meet, and gives it to corporations, many of which are already profitable. …The TD Bank estimated the annual cost increase of the HST on a typical BC family would be $800. …(The BC Liberals have) slashed income taxes by about $2 billion a year, disproportionately to the wealthy, and told us it would make us a stronger province. The Liberals have (also) slashed corporate taxes by about $1.5 billion a year. They told us this would boost competitiveness, productivity and job growth.”

The HST is collected by the Canada Revenue Agency, which then remits the PST amount to British Columbia. The Campbell River Mirror reports that NDP leader Jack Layton said in British Columbia earlier this week, “Of course now, when the people of British Columbia are getting ready to go to a referendum, which they fought for…we’re sitting under the possibility under Mr. Harper’s rules that if you vote to cancel the HST program, you stand to lose $1.6 billion dollars that Mr. Harper’s going to take back. Well, I’m here to tell you that with an NDP government, that money stays in British Columbia.”