To the editor:
Re: Larry Plancke’s response to Tom Fletcher’s column on the HST debate. (We’re Not Stupid, Mr. Fletcher, We’re ‘Mad as Hell’ May 25 Capital News.)
Right on. Except for one thing. Mr. Plancke advocates voting “No” in the upcoming referendum. If the referendum question were a straightforward one, like: “Do you want to keep the HST? Yes/No,” that would indeed be the way for opponents to go.
Unfortunately, the B.C. government has trouble with anything straightforward. Instead, the question is: “Are you in favour of eliminating the HST and reinstating the PST in conjunction with the GST? Yes/No.”
With this wording, a “No” vote would be a vote for keeping the HST. If you don’t want to keep it, you have to vote “Yes,” as in, you want it scrapped.
The B.C. government worded it this way deliberately. And not just to cause confusion. Should the vote go against them, they can always tell people they voted to bring back the PST, which, after a short interval, might very well be raised to help pay off whatever penalties the federal government will impose upon their co-conspirators for failing to hoodwink the public in the manner agreed upon when their little deal went through.
The Liberals are using both the stick (“It will cost you millions to renege on this agreement”) and the carrot (“We’ll be cutting the HST rate soon!” and, “Remember the HST rebate cheques? You still want them, don’t you?”) to convince people to vote their way, but this is no longer about the HST itself. No matter how the referendum goes, the people of B.C. are going to be paying some kind of tax that puts them substantially out of pocket. That’s just how it is. What this referendum really must show is the public’s feelings about trust and accountability.
A “Yes” vote will at least let B.C.’s powers that be know that, in future, they should think twice before they try to trick, lie to, or otherwise trifle with, an electorate that has finally run out of patience.
Otherwise, it will, as Mr. Plancke said, just be “business as usual.” And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.