Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Who would ever have thought that the Moll and the Zalm could agree on anything ? It's true. Ex-Premier Bill Vander Zalm of BC has launched a campaign to repeal that province's Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and I have to say that I'm in full agreement, though undoubtedly for different reasons than Bill may have. Here's the story from the Straight Goods website. See the end of this article for my own opinions as to why I support such a campaign.

"Fight HST" campaign launches

Group has 90 days to collect signatures for repeal.

by Bill Tieleman

Former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm will launch the Fight HST citizens Initiative petition campaign to stop the Harmonized Sales Tax in BC Premier Gordon Campbell's own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey on Tuesday April 6.

The public rally April 6 marks the beginning of the 90 days that "Fight HST" has to collect the signatures of 10 percent of registered BC voters in each of the province's 85 constituencies for the Initiative petition to be accepted by Elections BC, says Fight HST Lead Organizer Chris Delaney.

"The HST takes money out of people's pockets but doesn't put a dime into healthcare, education or important services," said Vander Zalm

Vander Zalm says it was important to launch the campaign right in Premier Gordon Campbell's own riding, to send a clear message to the BC Liberal government.

"British Columbians don't want Premier Campbell's HST — not even in his own riding," said Vander Zalm. "If Premier Campbell and the BC Liberal MLAs don't listen to the people and drop the HST, he and his party are finished."

Vander Zalm says he is confident British Columbians will make the Initiative a smashing success after drawing huge crowds as he toured across the province over the past two weeks.

"British Columbians are fed up with the HST and fed up with the undemocratic way Premier Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen are imposing a tax after promising they wouldn't do it," said Vander Zalm. "This citizens Initiative petition is the people's chance to tell Premier Gordon Campbell they want him to drop the HST — and demand that he drop it."

"The HST is the most hated tax ever because it is a cruel tax that takes money out of people's pockets but doesn't put a dime into healthcare, education or important services," said Vander Zalm.

In addition to Vander Zalm, speakers at the rally will include Delaney and "Fight HST" Strategist Bill Tieleman, founder of the NO BC HST Facebook protest group, which has more than 131,000 members.

Bill Tieleman, president of West Star Communications, is one of BC's best known political commentators and communicators. Read political commentary from Bill every Tuesday in 24 hours, Vancouver's free weekday newspaper (also online). Listen to Bill on Mondays at 10am on CKNW AM 980's Bill Good Show, in Vancouver, BC. Bill's email address is below.

Email: . Website: .

Here's a report from the CBC on what happened at last night's rally.
Vander Zalm's anti-HST rally draws hundreds in Vancouver
Several hundred concerned taxpayers turned out to hear former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm launch his anti-HST petition Tuesday night in Vancouver.

Vander Zalm's supporters filled the auditorium of Kitsilano Secondary School to hear him criticize Premier Gordon Campbell's surprise introduction of the harmonized sales tax just weeks after the provincial election last May.

The 12 per cent tax goes into effect July 1, replacing the seven per cent PST and five per cent GST.

"If you want to make something bad look good, you have to lie, and you have to lie over and over, and that's what's been happening," Vander Zalm told the crowd.

But not everyone who turned out Tuesday night agreed the tax would be bad for taxpayers. One man said his mother's benefits would actually increase under the HST.

But Vander Zalm challenged him, saying vulnerable people will still be hurt by the new tax.

The former premier also criticized the timing of the introduction of a harmonized tax that will apply to many good and services that were previously exempt from the PST, such as restaurant food, hair cuts and sports club memberships.

"We're in a recession folks," he said. "We were hoping to come out of it. We were hoping to come out of it soon, but these people in Victoria are only digging us deeper down.

"We're going to suffer. Industry and our businesses and all of us will suffer with it. It's a bad tax at a bad time for the wrong reasons."

Recent university graduate Katherine Chan agreed with that sentiment.

"I'm planning to get married, you know, buy a house, build a family, and, seriously, I can't even feed myself now. How am I going to, like, you know, support my own kids?" she said.

Thousands of volunteers collecting signatures
Vander Zalm is aiming to get rid of the tax by forcing the province to hold an initiative vote on the issue, but first, he needs to collect thousands of signatures on a petition supporting his draft bill.

So far, the veteran campaigner has signed up nearly 2,000 volunteers from ridings across B.C. to help him collect the estimated 300,000 voter signatures required to trigger an initiative vote, which is similar to a referendum.

Speaking before the rally, he said told CBC News he has seen a lot of hectic days in his 25-plus years in politics, "but I've never ever experienced anything like this."

"I have faxes coming in and going out till my fax machine is heating up. My telephone has never stopped ringing. And the e-mails? I hate to look at the computer," he said.

About 300 people signed the petition at the rally on Tuesday night, but volunteers have already begun collecting signatures across B.C.

Those organizing the petition have 90 days to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in every riding. Then Elections BC has to verify the signatures.

Once that is done, a legislative committee would then decide whether it will send a draft bill directly to the legislature for a vote or put the issue to a province-wide vote first.

But the provincial government has already said the HST is a federal tax, and an initiative vote wouldn't affect it.

Read more:
Here are a few reasons why I think the anti-HST campaign is a good idea. Some of these reasons, I'm sure, are shared by the traditional leftists over at Straight Goods. Others are unique to a libertarian socialist perspective.
1) Value added taxes (sales taxes) are regressive. They impact people at the lower end of income distribution more than they affect those with higher incomes. If we have to have taxes they should be progressive, affecting those with higher income more or at least equally distributed. Not only is a greater percentage of upper class income devoted to savings and investment, and therefore exempt from a consumption tax, but a higher percentage of their consumption is also exempt from same. Think tax shelters, consumption in foreign countries, "benefits" as opposed to salary/wages etc..
2) Value added taxes are invariably favoured by corporations and opposed by small business. This is especially the case with the Harmonized Sales Tax where it has been introduced in various Canadian provinces. This is because such taxes favours the large, just as it does with individuals, and reduces the income of small business. Think of the hairdresser who now has to charge 12% on their labour. Small business has no legal way of escaping this sudden increase in their prices and extra accounting costs- and resulting lower sales- while corporations, especially those producing for export have a multitude of such escape hatches, let alone the ability to simply pass on extra accounting costs to the customer.
3) In connection with this the introduction of the HST in various provinces has actually been a sly way of introducing extra categories of taxable items, most particularly making labour provincially taxable. This increases the general tax burden for the consumer, especially those in lower income brackets. Put truthfully this legislation that taxes things previously exempt from at least provincial tax (the major effect of harmonization) reduces personal consumption and adversely affects the major generator of new employment in most developed societies - small business. Such taxes thus have a depressing effect on the economy that is greater than that of another initiative such as simply increasing income tax.
4) While I don't think that the introduction of a referendum process in Canadian politics is a major democratic reform it is at least a minor step to making our society more democratic. Real democracy would involve a much more radical decentralization (and "de-statization"). BC actually has a referendum process in legislation, but any attempt to put it into practice has been stillborn in every case. This protest has the potential to actually make the process a reality rather than empty rhetoric. That would be nice to see. From the final sentence of the last article above the government of BC is already thinking of ways to weasel out of this law. What they say is, of course, an outrageous lie. The decision to sign up for the HST is very much a provincial matter.
5) Far too much of our politics has been "spectacularized" into image versus substance. This particular campaign is all about substance. It is also heartening that it seems to be gathering support from both the right and the left. One of the worst aspects of "politics as spectacle" is the creation of both a right and a left that rarely articulate policy but do spend their time in petty sniping and in creating fantastical images of each other. Campaigns such as this move beyond this artificial divide.
6) As a libertarian socialist, as opposed to the statist form of socialism that is the image of socialism in most people's minds, I know that socialism cannot be created through government but only by gradually reducing the role of government and increasing the role of cooperative and local institutions. Sooner or later this has to involve the shrinking of the fiscal resources available to government. The big question is in what order you pare away the functions of the state, not whether you prune them or not. There will be no miraculous revolution that suddenly turns government organizations into cooperative ones controlled by the people affected. It will be a long and slow slog. It might as well start with resistance to increases in the fiscal power of government. that's what this campaign is.


Werner said...

This is also the reason statists of every type oppose relatively simple or "less bureaucracy" solutions like a guaranteed income. It is certainly right to oppose the acquisition of stolen money through taxes; also reasonable to cut away at the worst aspects of state control such as military spending before going after the "more reasonable stuff". Forcing the state to simply give back money to the general public from a decreasing pile of stolen gold could be one more attack plan by anarchists. The Winnipeg Wobbly website has an article on Dauphin Manitoba experiment.

Larry Gambone said...

I agree with what you have written, Molly. And I too find it hilarious that the Zalm and I are supporting the same struggle.