The Vancouver Canucks have the Green Men. The B.C. government have the Stick Men.
The Stick Men are the television advertisement characters Victoria is using to convince voters to reject a call to dump the HST in a mail-in referendum due to start in a few weeks time.
The animated characters, used in a series of ads occupying valuable advertising space on television—particularly during the very popular Stanley Cup final game telecasts—were supposed to be non-partisan, according to Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.
The $5 million that the province is paying for the campaign was supposed to be about providing information from both sides of the HST debate.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the drawing board.
The Stick Men appear to have gone rouge. Or at least, the people drawing them have.
Far from being impartial little fellows, the emaciated army of HST advertisers are slowly but surely opting for a pro-HST stance in light of the recent government vow to lower the HST to 10 per cent from 12 per cent as long as voters reject the referendum call and re-elect it next time we go to the polls.
If voters do that, Premier Christy Clark’s government says it plans to reward voters with the lower HST rate in 2014.
And based on the latest Stick Men ads, the little fellas couldn’t be happier.
As seen in the ads, when they read “the government has listened” and is lowering the HST rate (no mention of the time line), they go from arguing to all-out support.
But it’s not just Stick Men who would have you believe the HST is now acceptable to all.
The latest radio ads purportedly giving both sides of the argument list only people who are happy with the proposed change. No opponents to the tax are heard from.
A week ago in Kelowna, during a debate on the tax, anti-HST campaigner Bill Vander Zalm decried the fact spending by both sides was not equal, given the huge amounts third-party businesses can, and have been, spending to promote the HST. He even accused the province of bribing the public to vote no in the referendum by offering rebates and the promise of a lower rate prior to the vote.
He has a point.
But more importantly, where is the balance that was promised by the government when it announced the run up to the referendum?
The Canuck’s Green Men do a great job of annoying opponents who end up in the penalty box. The government’s Stick Men are starting to really annoy HST opponents in a similar manner
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.