You couldn’t wipe the smile off Rod Baziw’s face Friday.
The North Okanagan Fight HST organizer was beaming from the news that British Columbians had defeated the controversial tax in a mail-in ballot referendum, with Baziw’s Yes side (opposed to HST) garnering nearly 55 per cent of the votes.
“I was overjoyed,” said Baziw. “All along, this tax was brought in illegally, we did not have a say in it to begin with. It was just shoved down our throats…
“There’s no plus side to it (HST) because all of the major corporations that made money, what have they done? They’ve raised prices, that’s all they’ve done.”
In Liberal MLA Eric Foster’s Vernon-Monashee riding, there were 24,708 votes cast with 12,581, or 50.92 per cent, voting yes to defeat the HST. A total of 12,127 or 49.08 per cent voted no.
“A lot of praise has to go to the work of the volunteers on our side for helping defeat the HST,” said Baziw. “We had about 50 dedicated volunteers during the whole fight, and about 300 volunteers in total.”
In MLA George Abbott’s Shuswap riding, a total of 22,332 ballots were returned with 11,202 residents or 50.16 per cent voting no, or in favour of keeping the HST. There were 11,130 people or 49.84 per cent who voted yes, only a difference of 72 votes.
B.C. finance minister Kevin Falcon said Friday an action plan has been established to guide the transition process and help ensure an effective and orderly transition from the HST to the PST plus GST system in B.C.
The PST will be reinstated at seven per cent with all permanent PST exemptions. The province may make some common sense administrative improvements to streamline the PST.
The transition period is expected to take a minimum of 18 months. During this period, the provincial portion of the HST will remain in place at seven per cent.
While Foster and Abbott both expressed disappointment with the result, NDP leader Adrian Dix was as happy as Baziw, calling Friday’s result, “A victory for democracy.”
“The people won over the arrogance of the Liberal government and its powerful friends. It is a victory for fairness,” said Dix. “For a decade, the Liberal Party has shifted the tax burden onto B.C. families. A return to the PST will be good for communities, good for families and good for small business. It will make life a little bit more affordable for working families. It will also ensure that British Columbia has control over its sales tax policy, now and in the future.”
Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tate Bengston said Friday the result leaves his membership with mixed feelings.
“The HST was really important to some, they’re sad and disappointed it’s going and uncertain what it will mean in terms of implications. Right now, there are a lot of unknowns and that’s a big concern,” said Bengston. “Other members that were not as favourable are happy to see it go, but uncertainty is a concern for them as well. Nobody knows what they’re looking at from here on out.”
The BC Fruit Growers’ Association is another group disappointed with Friday’s result, but has stated it will respect the wishes of the electorate.
Joe Sardinha, President of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA), threw his and the association’s support behind the HST because he said it was the best way of streamlining the tax system and improving the viability of B.C.’s farm families.
“Since food is not taxed, inputs to produce food should be exempted,” said Sardinha. “Growers would now like to see an efficient, simple and fair tax system in B.C. The BCFGA is requesting that government reinstate a provincial sales tax exemption for all farm inputs.”