HST Referendum: What You Need to Know Before You Vote

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In early May, B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced that the provincial government would be spending $5 million on a “neutral” advertising campaign to provide “basic, neutral information about the Harmonized Sales Tax.” This $5 million campaign is the larger chunk of $7 million that the BC government has spent informing the public about the widely opposed HST.

These valuable tax payers’ dollars have been spent on a variety of marketing efforts including the recent commercial of two stick men mumbling, supposedly encouraging you to learn more about the benefits of the HST with the slogan “Decide for yourself”. I can’t speak for everyone but watching two stickmen mumble back and forth with conversation balloons popping up reading “HST” or “GST & PST” does not move me to run for my computer to learn more, it motivates me to change the channel, quickly.

The $1.9 million not being spent on commercials has been spent on HST telephone town hall meetings hosted by Falcon and other ministers, public dialogues, both a pro-HST and an anti-HST campaign and to send voter’s guides to every home in the province.

Both the pro-HST and anti-HST organizations were given $250,000 to spend on their choice of marketing campaign. The pro-campaign is responsible for the commercials recently airing of “real people” working “real jobs” saying nothing much other than “the HST is good for B.C.”

As for the con-campaign, well they don’t have the resources to create hard-hitting advertisements on television and have chosen to execute less expensive radio ads which can be heard today as residents of BC begin receiving the referendum ballots in the mail.

Well known finance critic of the New Democratic Party, Bruce Ralston, vocalized his opposition calling the provincial government unfair on how they have chosen to spend the money, “They’ve given the opponents of the HST $250,000 and they’ve given themselves almost $7 million.”

In late May, Minister Falcon announced that the government plans to make some changes to the HST if British Columbians vote to keep it. The most discussed change would be the cut in rate from 12% to 10% gradually over the next 3 years. The other suggested change? A one-time transition cheque of $175 for lower income seniors and families with children under 18.

The anti-HST organization is urging voters to READ your ballot carefully. Contrary to what the public would naturally think, voting to overturn the HST will mean casting a “YES” vote. Voting “Yes” means that British Columbians want to see the HST abolished where a “No” vote will mean that you are pro-HST and do not want to see it extinguished.

The HST referendum decision will be made by mail-in ballots that have been mailed out as of last week and must be returned to Elections B.C. before July 22, 2011. The current Canada Post strike has delayed the delivery of the ballots; however, to date Elections B.C. has not extended the return ballot deadline. The Liberal government has promised to abolish the HST if a simple majority votes to do so.

Written by: Megan Rendell (@MeganRendell)

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