Photo by Kyra Hoggan: Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm discusses the HST with residents at the Castlegar Public Library Monday.
Roughly 50 people showed up at the Castlegar Public Library Monday morning to hear former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm slam the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) due to take effect on June 1 of this year.
Vander Zalm, in this stop of his province-wide, anti-HST tour, said he already has 4,000 volunteers prepared to help him fight the new tax, which is supposed to combine the provincial and federal sales taxes, but which Vander Zalm says will really cost the average B.C. family of four over $2,100 in new taxes.
“It's a cruel tax at the wrong time for the wrong reasons,” Vander Zalm told the room. “You don't introduce a tax, particularly on the consumers, during a recession time, or you risk creating a depression.”
He said the tax will offer an infusion into provincial coffers, but no new money for health care or education, and the people who will be hardest-hit by the tax will be the lower-income earners like families and seniors.
“Restaurant operators tell us we're going to lost thousands of jobs, and millions (of dollars) in commerce,” he said, adding that huge corporations will be the ones to gain from the HST. “The people who will benefit will be the corporate shareholders in the U.S. and Europe.”
Aside from the tax itself, he said, there are other serious problems surrounding the tax, including the corrosion of the democratic process in B.C., as well as provincial sovereignty.
“Eighty-five per cent of B.C. is opposed to this tax – and we're being ignored,” he said. “It's all about the (ruling) party and what they're told by the premier's office – the people don't matter.”
As for sovereignty, he said the PST is a tax the province can raise, lower or alter at will – while the HST will be federally administered – meaning Ottawa can raise the tax, B.C. will have to go through a six-months-or-more process to even request a change, and each month the province would have to wait for a federal cheque to receive its own revenue stream.
“And there's nothing to prevent the province (a couple years down the road) from introducing a new PST,” he added.
Vander Zalm's right-hand-man in the petition action is former B.C. Reform leader Chris Delaney, who said they're using a three-pronged approach. The first prong is the petition, will a bill attached that would rescind the agreement between B.C. and Ottawa creating the tax, return the PST as we currently know it and require that any money collected through the HST be refunded.
Prong two is targeting Ml As for recall if they vote in favor of the HST (including the premier) and prong three involves a formal legal opinion sent to a judge with a request for an injunction to stop the HST from moving forward ( an opinion based on constitutional grounds).
The 90-day window for getting 10 per cent or more signatures in each of the province's 85 ridings will begin April 6 and end July 5.
For more information on Vander Zalm's tour schedule, visit http://www.saynotohstinbc.ca
“We need to change the system,” he said in closing. “The system is bad, bad, bad.