Nicholl: Tax A or Tax B? Taking an interest step for democracy

This week I looked carefully at my ballot asking me if I wanted to “extinguish” the HST and go back to the good old days of the PST and GST.

This week I looked carefully at my ballot asking me if I wanted to “extinguish” the HST and go back to the good old days of the PST and GST.

I thought, someone may as well ask me if I want an enema.

Whether I say yes or no, neither answer is a particularly comfortable choice.

The referendum is a trick question. We all know that.

Either answer means we still pay taxes. There is no third option to say: “I don’t want to pay any tax at all. Leave me alone.”

It’s tax A or tax B. That’s it.

I suppose I could buck the system and not reply at all. But then, no one would know what I really thought.

Was I not voting because I favoured the HST but felt there could be more concessions to those most adversely affected, such as those in the service industry?

Was I really in favour of going back to the other system, but wanted the amount dropped to a total of three per cent instead?

Or, was I too embarrassed to ask for another ballot because I thought it was junk mail and chucked it in the blue bin before I realized I was recycling my civic duty?

No one would ever know.

So, I must reply. Civilly.

There is no blog attached. I can’t Twitter my comments.

I have only one white circle to contend with—and three envelopes.

Unlike some objectors, I like the three envelopes. They make me feel like a spy on a secret mission.

If you don’t respond, you’ll never get this close to feeling like you’re in the secret service again.

Seriously, I do encourage everyone to vote.

These kinds of referendums don’t come around often and we should show them respect.

They are also extremely costly—into the millions of dollars.

Just the promotion for the referendum was $1.7 million, which works out to about 38 cents for everyone in BC—or HST on $31.75.

We are all paying for this. Isn’t that a nasty irony to pay for a tax vote from our tax dollars?

What will they think of next?

So, if we’re all paying, I urge everyone to take it seriously. Get educated.

Get comfortable enough with a decision so you can fill in that white circle.

I know, I know, the HST is confusing and all the propaganda just muddles things further.

But, if you got through math 9, you should be able to get a grasp enough of the situation to figure out which white circle is for you.

If you can assemble a barbecue, you have more than enough expertise.

Being too lazy to bother is not acceptable because, first of all, the stamp is free and there’s no HST on it.

Second, the HST referendum really represents democracy at its finest.

Think about it. When the HST showed up on our receipts, we were angry because we didn’t understand and felt we weren’t consulted enough.

The government fessed up that it could have explained it better.

But, by that time, the anti-HST ranks were filling up and mounting an all-out protest.

It gained enough momentum for angry voters to demand recalling some MLAs.

Eventually, the provincial government was forced to make some amends.

Thus, our referendum. Our own vote.

You’ve notice that in all of this, there is the concession of reducing the HST to 10 per cent—as long as we vote to keep it.

It’s a little bit of bribery, for sure, but it’s also a decided victory for public opinion.

Indeed, if no one raised a ruckus, we’d be paying 12 per cent through infinity and beyond.

It messes up the whole purpose of the tax when it reduces government income, but it’s a trade off for not having to go back to the drawing board with a tax system that was onerous and out-of-date.

I’m not saying the HST is exponentially better, and certainly not for many, but it’s here.

So, even though neither answer on the ballot may give you a warm, yummy feeling, consider yourself part of an interesting step in democracy.

It’s better than realizing you’re actually voting in favour of a tax.

Shelley Nicholl is the author of The Case for Having Children…and other assorted irrational ideas, and owner of  Mad Squid Ink, a professional writing service,



Kelowna Capital News

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