Top of Mind - October 4, 2010

Will British Columbians think like a finance minister when they vote on whether to repeal the harmonized sales tax?

"For one day in 2011, every eligible voter in British Columbian gets to be the minister of finance," the premier said last week, in reference to the upcoming vote on the harmonized sales tax. "As minister of finance, you know this is a very serious matter. This decision has consequences, Regardless of which way we go, it has consequences. It has consequences on people, on their jobs. It has consequences on your community, on our economy. But it is your call."

As such, it seems Mr. Campbell is betting British Columbians will vote on the merits of the tax rather than on how it was introduced or the popularity of his administration. But that's more of an intellectual than emotional argument - an approach that, in part, resulted in the defeat of the pro-single transferable vote side during the recent referendum on electoral reform.

Fear of government cutbacks if the tax is repealed could change that balance. Personal attacks on the leaders of Fight HST may also sway some voters. But will it be enough to save the HST?

Why is the Campbell administration supporting the proposed Prosperity gold-copper project, which is opposed by the province's First Nations?

That support is at odds with the government's stated commitment to build a new relationship with those communities. Yet the premier himself told local politicians last week that his administration wants to "get on with the Prosperity Mine in this province."

This could be a sop to mining concerns, who have criticized the government for banning mining in the Flathead Valley, as well as prohibiting the exploration and development of uranium. At the same time, it will assure the business community there are limits to the government's willingness to accommodate aboriginal rights and title. But it may also be part of an attempt to suppress support for an alternative right-wing party.

After all, before the introduction of the harmonized sales tax, much of that support came from those opposed to the government's conciliatory approach toward First Nations.

Is it politic for Gordon Campbell to characterize the harmonized sales tax as a policy that benefits low-income British Columbians?

In his speech to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual general meeting, the premier reminded delegates that "under the new system, 1.1 million low-income British Columbians get a cheque, quarterly cheques up to $230 a year, in the mail to help them get through the challenges they face. Ask yourself if the seniors in your community would like to give that $230 back?" But, as one of our readers noted, that may also prompt British Columbians to ask themselves why we have 1.1 million low-income earners in the first place.

What does Chris Delaney's decision to quit the provincial Conservatives mean for the party?

Mr. Delaney has made headlines as Fight HST's lead organizer. But if the former Unity Party leader makes another run for elected office, you can count on someone dusting off decade-old quotes that make him sound like he's from the religious right rather than the middle-of-the-road. So Mr. Delaney might have hurt himself and helped the Conservatives - whose support may now be in the double digits - by becoming the newly-formed BC First party's spokesperson.

4 Comments

I believe that many (most?) people will use the HST vote as an opportunity to pass judgement on the Liberals. I simply do not see any way that enough voters will look at it "objectively" and decide simply on the basis of whether or not the HST is good policy.

I do not understand why if the Liberals think the tax is so important to the economic well being of the province that they either sent it to the legislature to decide (i.e. they explicitly vote to retain it, despite the fact that ~550,000 people signed a petition) or they move up the date of the vote to eliminate the uncertainty over the fate of the tax. A few months is PLENTY of time for the proponents and opponents of the HST to make their case. We do not need a year to do so. All it does is needlessly drag things out.

I am so disappointed about all of this. The Liberals' actions sure smack of a measure to try to save their political skins.

one day we'll have electoral reform. no matter how much money canwest global and friends try to dissuade people from it. its telling how corrupt first past the post is when the america is one of the last western countries to use it....and we follow suit.

the fact that fear of governmental and corporate retribution, combined with the desire for british columbian apathy developed over another year, is being used to muscle the electorate into agreement with the beloved HST is enough to vote against it for myself.

dont worry gordo. i'll check my loathing for you into stasis until your time comes.

For a British Columbian to "think like Finance Minister Hansen" he/she would end up voting one way while talking another way.

The vote on the referendum has nothing to do with thinking like a Finance Minister or any politician, for that matter. Those of us that turn out to vote will not have the details of the economy and projected revenues from all sources that are available to the minister. Likewise, we will not have the information on expenditures and more importantly, where these expendituires are destined to go.

What we hope to have is some factual information on the HST. Both pro and con. No theoretical hyperbole, no unprovable projections, just the facts.

If I were the Finance Minister, the first thing I would explain is how removing $1.9 billion of purchasing power from the people of BC, every year going forward, will help drive the economy. If I were the Finance Minister, I would question the raises, perks and gold plated pension awarded to our elected officials. I would question why we require more than 2 spin doctors, Public Affairs Bureau, for every elected official. The list is endless.

The vote on the referendum has absolutely nothing to do with thinking like the Finance Minister. It has nothing to do with political views. It has everything to do with the impact it will have on the majority of us, financially speaking. Remember, government has no money. It can only spend what it takes it from someone. It can only give rebates by taking it from some people to give it to someone else.

My vote will have nothing to do with thinking like a Finance Minister, but how I perceive the effects it will have on BC's economy going forward and the impact it will have on my bottom line.

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