The process to decide the fate of the harmonized sales tax (HST) was announced last week. A decision will be made by the voters of British Columbia and the result will be known in August.
The first ballots will be mailed out on June 13 and the deadline for returning your ballot is July 22. The question is simple and was set by Elections BC:
“Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)? Yes/No.”
In short, do you want to go back to the previous system of PST and GST or keep the HST?
Premier Christy Clark has made it clear that the HST referendum will be a fair and open contest. This government will provide $500,000 for the “yes” and “no” sides, because we understand how important this decision is for British Columbians. We believe people need to understand both the pros and the cons of the two tax systems.
Toward that end, we are also creating a Public Dialogues Fund of $500,000 which will be independently managed by the province’s public universities, colleges and institutes. These funds will enable our post-secondary institutions to host informative public dialogues in advance of the referendum.
In addition to the public dialogues, another $700,000 will go towards a comprehensive voter’s guide. The voter’s guide will go out to every home in the province with statements from both the “yes” and “no” sides, a summary of the independent panel report on the HST and other information to help you make an informed choice.
This referendum is an opportunity for British Columbians to fully understand their options and to ensure an informed choice is made. We will also have the chance to hear your ideas about how the HST can be improved.
That is why, in the lead-up to the referendum campaign, we have launched Talking Taxes, a public engagement process to consider options to improve the HST. The goals of this process are to see what the HST might look like if British Columbians decide to keep it and to make a decision on any potential HST policy changes in advance of the referendum.
Talking Taxes will include tele-town halls in every region of the province, as well as meetings with a wide variety of groups with an interest in the HST.
Participating in the tele-town hall meetings will be easy. Your phone will ring and you can stay on the line to participate if you choose. To learn more about this public engagement process and the HST itself, please visit www.hstinbc.ca.
One thing is very clear to me and my BC Liberal colleagues: It is your call—and you deserve all the information you need to make an informed choice.
If there is anything I can do to help ensure that you know all you need to know about the HST, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Thomson is
the MLA for Kelowna-