The PST legislation passed without fanfare in the Legislature this week, bringing an end to the four-year long HST debacle. It happened without the NDP calling a standing vote to rub salt in the wounds of Liberal MLAs who were compelled to defend and repeatedly vote for a tax their party had promised wasn’t in the cards during the 2009 election.
The HST saga demonstrates that the majority of party MLAs and candidates running in an election don’t have a clue what their leadership has in store for them should they form government. Election platforms and pre-election budgets aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. We’ve seen it time and time again, with the NDP’s so-called “fudge-it budgets”; with Premier Campbell’s sale of BC Rail after the 2001 contest; and with the HST and ballooning deficit after the 2009 election.
At a minimum, future fixed election dates must be moved to the fall to avoid this mess, so election year budgets can be fully debated and scrutinized.
Fortunately, the HST debacle shows that voters can hold their government to account between elections if they are motivated and organized enough to use the referendum and initiative legislation effectively. I’d like to see this tool used to force political parties to take big money out of politics by banning corporate and union donations.
The Liberals’ rationalization of HST also proves we should never listen to politicians who use economic fear mongering to justify their tax or social policies. We were told that PST is a job and investment killer. Funny that the provincial budget tabled a few weeks ago projects none of the job and investment-killing effects the Liberals said we’d experience if we returned to the PST.
Now that the HST is behind us, let’s hope the government starts actively assisting the 100,000 businesses (out of 130,000) that have yet to register to start collecting the PST as of April 1st. Some of the millions of dollars of taxpayer money being spent on partisan ads could have been put to much better use by making the transition back to PST as painless as possible.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.