The wheels of government grind slowly.
Never has that been clearer than with the case of returning the Provincial Sales Tax and federal Goods and Services Tax to B.C. and scrapping the widely despised Harmonized Sales Tax.
British Columbians voted to dump the controversial HST and return to the PST and GST in the first successful ballot under the province’s referendum law way back in July 2011. Nearly two years later, the will of the people is finally coming around to be done.
Contrast that with the eight months it took the provincial government to go from not having the HST on its radar, as it said at the time, to introducing legislation for it in March 2010.
A lot has happened in B.C. since the HST came about. The biggest in terms of the government—apart from the vote to dump it—is that it’s widely seen as what cost former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell his job.
But don’t worry too much about him, he had a soft landing as he was named Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK.
Campbell quit in B.C. just as the anti-HST forces were gathering steam and it was clear the government was fighting a losing battle for the hearts and minds of taxpaying British Columbians. So he left the job of saving the HST to his successor Christie Clark and the man who spearheaded the new tax, former finance minister Colin Hansen.
Clark failed and Hansen lost his job as finance minister. Oh, and he also announced he was quitting politics.
On April 1, the tax formerly known as the PST, along with its federal buddy the GST, will return. But the question remains: Why has it taken so long?
The government says it takes a while to change a tax regime. That’s true. But there was a fully functioning tax regime in place—actually two because the GST was a separate tax—back in 2010 when the HST came in. And that was done in just eight months.
Of course, for the B.C. Liberals, the timing of the switch back could not be worse.
As it heads into the provincial election campaign, desperate for some good news, voters are going to be reminded of the total debacle that was this province’s experiment with the HST.
As if the government needed to give disgruntled voters any more reasons to question its ability to run the province, it will come just six weeks before the election.
It seems for the Liberals, bad news just keeps on coming.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.