In Your Corner: Vote yes to end the HST

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Ballots for the harmonized sales tax are arriving in mailboxes. The B.C. Liberal government’s $7 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign has kicked into gear on TV, radio and with a “voters’ guide” rightfully described by independent MLA Vicki Huntington as “designed to deceive”.

Like Huntington, I am tired of all the deception that has resulted from the HST. First, the HST was brought in after the Liberal government lied in the election. Then it took 700,000 British Columbians making history to force the BC Liberals to at least ask us what we thought.

We were promised by the Liberals that we would have a fair referendum process, but not until September 2011. Not soon enough we said, and the promise came for a June 24 date. Score two for the people — or so we thought. The BC Liberals have broken their promise for a June 24 referendum run like an election. Instead, we have a problematic mail-in ballot that lacks proper scrutinizing and transparency. This tactic is often called “voter suppression” — nothing any governing party should be proud of.

I’d like the government to be honest, and voting yes in this referendum is one clear and legitimate way to send them a message, but it’s not the main reason for me. For me it is about fairness.

At the core of my values, of what drives me everyday no matter how rough the day, is the idea that fairness is worth fighting for. As a child, when I was told that “life isn’t fair”, I always responded, “It should be.”

We all deserve access to quality health care. We all deserve a good education. We all deserve a good life. No one would dispute that in Canada. To this, we should all pay our fair share of the taxes.

The HST changes that. It shifts more taxation onto you and away from the big corporations who haven’t been paying their fair share for several years. Whenever you go to a restaurant, buy a sandwich from the Extra Foods deli, get your hair cut, switch to energy-saving appliances, go skiing, go to a naturopath, you are paying more. The average family pays over $1,000 more per year. We are all paying more to the tune of roughly $2 billion each year and the big corporations are paying less.

When I spoke with bike shop owners, one worker said to me she was upset to have to turn a little boy away because he hadn’t saved enough when he found out about the HST. He had enough if the HST didn’t cost him seven per cent more. Something in this story hits home. An 11-year-old boy pays more while Alcan, Cominco and Telus pay less.

So what happens when you and I have less to spend? One of B.C.’s largest employers, restaurants, are saying they have to lay people off. Single moms living off tips have even less, and child poverty gets worse. Restaurants can’t buy local food because it costs more, and they have less. That’s not going to be good for our local farmers. The list goes on.

Meanwhile, the CEOs of B.C.’s biggest corporations are making on average 35 per cent more than they did last year. B.C. has the highest child poverty in Canada, and one B.C. CEO sees his annual salary jump 1,117 per cent. This is 2011.

Yes, life should be fair. Yes, taxes should be fair. Yes, the HST is unfair. So, yes, I want to stop the HST.

Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding.