New premier gears up for HST vote

Fight HST organizer Chris Delaney (background) prepares to speak to an eclectic group of protesters outside the Vancouver convention centre.

Premier-designate Christy Clark chaired her first caucus meeting in Vancouver Wednesday afternoon, and one of the most pressing issues facing her government is how to proceed with a promised referendum on the harmonized sales tax.

After musing about dispensing with a referendum during the B.C. Liberal leadership contest, Clark settled on moving the province-wide vote up from the scheduled Sept. 24 date to late June. But it isn’t clear how that would be done, or if it is even possible.

The vote is currently required to be held in September under the terms of the Recall and Initiative Act, after B.C.’s first-ever successful initiative petition last year called for the HST to be “extinguished” and the old provincial sales tax reinstated.

To hold the vote earlier, the B.C. Liberals would have to call the legislature into session to amend the act, or cancel the initiative vote and set a new date under the Referendum Act.

Whatever the date, a province-wide vote with election-style polling stations would cost an estimated $25 million. Elections BC would have to hire hundreds of temporary staff to run it, and preparations could take too long for the vote to go ahead in June.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James said in February it would take Elections BC about nine months to prepare for an election-style referendum.

Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen have both said the government should stay with the September date, to allow time for people to see the real effects of the HST and understand what is and is not affected.

A panel of independent experts is taking submissions on the HST until Friday, and has a deadline of April 1 to produce a report that will be made public immediately.

The panel is chaired by University of Alberta chancellor Jim Dinning, a former Alberta finance minister. Other members are former B.C. Auditor General George Morfitt, Coast Capital Savings CEO Tracy Redies and John Richards, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University.

The B.C. government has set up a website to answer questions about the tax. It details what has more, less or the same tax under the HST compared to the PST.

For example, car purchases are unchanged except for buying or leasing alternative fuel or fuel efficient vehicles, where an exemption under the PST no longer applies. HST also applies to parking fees, one of the services covered by the federal GST and now the HST.

Just Posted

Watercolours by late Chilliwack artist to be unveiled at Yarrow Library

The public is invited to a special unveiling of three of Heinz Klassen’s watercolour paintings

Yarrow Library one of the stops on Cubetto’s grand tour

FVRL’s friendly wooden robot, Cubetto, travels throughout Fraser Valley to teach programming basics

No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

The garden is still homeless after SD78 said no to the society using the McCaffrey School property

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

Most Read