BC Liberals are a desperate group

BC’s now notorious harmonized sales tax referendum shenanigans deserves a public enquiry.

BC’s now notorious harmonized sales tax referendum shenanigans deserves a public enquiry.

That’s the current opinion of former premier Bill Vander Zalm – and I must say while I agree with him, I abhor the thought of any more public funds being spent in pursuit of this debacle.

And there are so many more elements of government by the BC Liberals in the last several years so much more worthy of detailed public examination.

But, there are millions (eventually billions) of dollars at stake and the provincial Liberal government appears to have neither spared any expense, nor left any opportunistic stone unturned, in their efforts to persuade and convince the electorate to vote to retain the HST in the current referendum.

BC Government spokesman Matt Gordon disagrees with The Zalm and states any enquiry into the machinations of the HST fiasco would be “a waste of public funds.”

That does not seem to be his point of concern with respect to the excessive associated costs of the government full-court-press over the past few weeks to influence the electorate to support the tax in the referendum.

Both sides have sparred energetically on this issue for months – and I subscribe fully to the point of view that says that premier Christy Clark, her ministers, advisers and consultants have too often crossed the line in spending and have stretched ever-thinning public credulity beyond even reasonable limits in campaigning for the HST.

The 1939 Ella Fitzgerald/Jimmy Lunceford jazz song goes, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”

It’s a mantra even more meaningful in 2011 in the unfolding fairy-tale world of the somewhat desperate group that calls itself the BC Liberal Party.

Sadly, the way that they do it continues to appear both sleazy and unprincipled to many British Columbians, in addition to Mr. Vander Zalm.

The constant slew of placed stories, articles and op-ed contributions in support of the HST, such as the recent epistle to his local paper, the Kelowna Capital News by retired federal-cabinet-minister Stockwell Day, continues to muddy the waters, as does the series of “no-bid” HST-support contracts issued to Liberal-connected firms in the windup stages of the campaign.

I have to say, as a former international trade minister and past-president of the Treasury Board, Mr. Day (MP retired) could hardly be viewed as a disinterested or neutral third party in this debate, which means a lot to the federal government.

So much has been written and said about the pros and cons of the HST, but no amount of pressure or argument from either direction can alter the fact that the Gordon Campbell government did not act honestly or transparently in introducing the HST.

They have demonstrated that they will spend what it takes and do whatever it needs to win over an increasingly hostile electorate.

I’m not certain the NDP opposition has taken full advantage of the opportunity presented to them by the referendum to work on undermining the low credibility of the current government.

Which makes me wonder if, truly, the NDP are as opposed to the tax as they claim to be.

Premier Clark’s promise to reduce the HST by one per cent in each of the next two years, it seems to me, would require the consent of the federal government … and certainly runs counter the overall experience of countries adopting similar blended value-added taxation programs  where significant increases seem to be more the order of the day.

Even in Canada, with the exception of BC where the current combined tax is 12 per cent, in all other provinces with the HST, the provincial component is higher – New Brunswick, Ontario and Newfoundland are at eight per cent, Nova Scotia at 10 per cent.

And they seem to be still hungry there.

The BC government claim that an HST would be revenue neutral has not been demonstrated although the HST has been in place for a significant length of time.

Nor has the accompanying job creation claims, which appear to have dropped from 113,000 jobs by 2020 (BC government study) to some 2,400 annually by Mr. Day (24,000 in 10 years).

Somehow, that just seems too wide a gap for me.

I don’t think I’ve heard an estimate of jobs created by HST to date.

The referendum final date is two days from now – and I understand we won’t know the result until September.

I hope Elections BC is on top of the job … and can keep the count process transparent.