Skeena rejects HST by two-to-one margin

The more than two year battle over the Harmonized Sales Tax ended Friday with British Columbians voting to get rid of the tax by a 55-45 margin.

The more than two year battle over the Harmonized Sales Tax ended Friday with British Columbians voting to get rid of the tax by a 55-45 margin.

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin said he expected the HST to be defeated but was surprised by the result in the Skeena riding.

“I didn’t expect 67-33 but knew it would be a big resounding ‘yes’ to get rid of it,” he said just after the result was announced.

“It’s a real slap in the face to the people who brought it in,” said Austin, adding the provincial government was unfair to shift $1.9 billion in the tax burden from corporations on to the people.

Public anger led to the departure of Gordon Campbell as premier, the overall loss of Liberal party popularity and an attempt by new premier Christy Clark to convince voters to accept the tax with their own money.

“Christy Clark and the Liberals have a huge problem,” said Austin, adding Clark has to abide by what the people voted.

While waiting for the provincial government to respond to the vote, Austin said the Liberals have three options of what to do: have a temporary increase in the deficit, raise provincial revenues by raising taxes, or cutting services.

“I can assure you there’s no appetite for cutting services based on what the BC Liberals have done in the last [several] years,” said Austin.

“I imagine they’re beavering away at damage control,” he added.

Austin pointed out the number of people who mailed back their referendum ballots was very close to the number who voted in the 2009 election.

In North Coast the vote was 67 per cent to dump the HST but the margin was only 53.5-46.5 in Stikine while Nechako Lakes voted to keep the tax by a seven point margin.