Twice the people of B.C. have had an opportunity to have their say on the HST. The first time, of course, was the very successful initiative petition which set up the referendum vote, the results of which were reported out last week.
However, unlike the initiative petition, the referendum outcome compels the government to get rid of the HST and restore the PST and GST. Hopefully this now ends more than two years of political bickering about a single tax policy. More importantly, hopefully we can now apply the same amount of interest and energy to the host of other critical issues we’re confronted with.
And, I mean “we,” as in “we the people.” The one lesson we should all take away from the HST debacle is that the citizens’ right to vote does matter — your vote does count.
Think about it. Gordon Campbell thought his 2009 election success gave him the right to impose a tax that he’d promised he wouldn’t impose. The people rebelled and, two years later, Campbell is no longer premier and his HST will be extinguished. This is a clear demonstration of the power people have in a democratic society when they exercise their voice through both petition and the ballot box. Pundits, economists and partisans can split hairs about whether the people voted correctly, or why they voted the way they did. They can still argue with each other about the relative merits of the HST over the PST/GST regime. But the people have spoken and the government has been compelled to reverse a major tax policy by the majority of voters. That’s democracy in action.
Now that the HST debate is over, every voter/citizen must continue to stay awake to the actions of government and give the same energy and attentiveness to all the other issues.
The foundation of a functioning democracy is an attentive, informed citizenry that takes its responsibility seriously and exercises its right to vote at election time and its responsibility to engage politicians through petitions, letters, town halls, etc. between elections.
I hope the recent demonstration of “people power” in the HST referendum encourages British Columbians to become more attentive and active citizens on all issues.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.