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REPORTING · 19th March 2010
Walter McFarlane
Video and story on Terrace Daily HERE
Former Premier Bill Vander Zalm entertained Kitimat residents on Tuesday evening at Mount Elizabeth Theater while he explained why the proposed HST has to be stopped.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan introduced Vander Zalm and talked about how they met. Vander Zalm took the microphone and thanked the people of Kitimat, the Mayor and the MLA, Robyn Austin for coming. He expressed he was happy to be back in Kitimat and introduced himself and spoke about his history.

“To make good look bad and bad look good, you have to tell a lie, a big lie. Unfortunately, I don’t want to call the people in Victoria liars but they haven’t been completely truthful with us on more then one occasion,” said Vander Zalm.

He spoke about the turning over of BC Hydro as an example and how the government said they did not wish it to be privatized. He similarly recalled the government exporting the building of two ferries to Germany. All the Ferries except for these two were built in BC. “It was the price of politics,” said Vander Zalm. From there, he moved onto BC Rail. The Government again said they were not selling it. The government pointed out this was not a sale but 999 year lease with an option to renew.

“We’ve been told a few untruths in the past,” said Vander Zalm.

He moved into the HST which brought people from all sides of the political spectrum together. “We finally see people coming together and putting this issue before party,” said Vander Zalm. “It’s a big issue for a whole lot of reasons.”

Vander Zalm explained how he got involved when the focus was on the tasering death at the Vancouver Airport and there was a brief mention of the HST. He explained every Premier has been approached concerning the HST and all of the Premier’s have replied no with the exception of the Maritime Provinces and Quebec. This year Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta said no while the BC Government, which is short on cash, because of the expensive highway to Whistler for the Olympics (which was closed for the Olympics) and the convention centre.

“They were ready to accept this bribe from Ottawa but they had some conditions to the bribe. They said we don’t want all the money right now. We want you to save a good chunk of money for the third year into the program because that’s the year before the election,” said Vander Zalm.

He stated the people are seeing through this and they are trying to bring these people together to stop it. He pointed out the Premier had promised they would not introduce the HST during the election, stating this was a few months before the government said this was a good thing.

“The people who are really hurt by all of this are the seniors, the working poor and the working family, the people on fixed incomes. They are the ones that get hurt because it’s going to take a big chunk of their available cash and they are going to cancel things they might have done otherwise just for simple enjoyment. No more movies, no more trips, no more holidays, cut back on this, cut back on restaurant meals,” said Vander Zalm. “People suffer, there’s going to be lay offs. It’s going to hurt the small businesses as well. But they don’t say that in Victoria, we’re being told it will be good for business.”

The restaurants are telling Vander Zalm they will lose 100’s of millions of dollars of business that it would damage the tourist industry. All goods and services will be taxed and the BC government is telling them it will be good for business. The people with big capital purchases who claim to create economic development and jobs will be the ones to benefit. However, this tax break will not determine if they expand or not.

“If it is 2 billion dollars, as they tell us it is, and you take and divide the 2 billion dollars by the population of the province; 4 million people into 2 billion dollars per year, it’s 500 dollars for every man woman and child in the province. If you’re a senior’s couple, you’re looking at an extra thousand dollars a year; you’ve got to find some place. If you’re a family, mom, dad two children, you’re probably going to have to look at $2000 a year that you’ve got to find some place to pay this additional tax. And for the guy’s on Howe Street, […] that are making big big pay. It hurts perhaps but it’s something they might be concerned about but they can manage that but for a lot of people, it’s the straw that broke the camels back, they’re going to have a tough time because of it. And if the consumer does not have the money to spend, the little businesses especially are going to suffer considerably on account of it,” said Vander Zalm.

Vander Zalm started talking about the origin of the committee and how it started with a letter to the newspapers. On February the 4th, the initial petition was granted. On April the 6th, the campaign begins.

“We’re going to need 10% of the registered voters in every constituency. The key is every constituency. It’s going to take good management because we can’t have a constituency fail on us,” said Vander Zalm.

He then explained he had received communications from lawyers saying this tax is unconstitutional and illegal. He stated we live in a democracy but we elect a dictatorship. He pointed out this new tax is nothing like what he has seen because 85% of the people are opposed to the tax and the government is not canceling it. The government did not ask the people nor did they take it to the legislature because if it went to the legislature, people would have a chance to discuss it with their government. This is the result of a meeting being cooked between several people, a provincial minister, a federal minister of finance and then returned to the people in the hope they say ok.

“We’re going to fight this to the very end,” said Vander Zalm. “We can do it, we will do it, and we won’t stop until it’s done.

Chris Delaney stepped up to talk about the process. He explained the petition is legally binding on the government. He explained there were three components of the bill, the first would rescind the agreement signed by the two finance ministers and repeal the tax. This bill, if successful, would repeal the legislation and the second component would return BC to the PST as it is today. The third component would be to return the tax collected on a per capita basis.

“It’s our money; they had no right to take it. 85% of the public is against it we’re saying, reset the clock to zero,” said Delaney.

In the strategy for this process the petition is step one. Step two will be the constitutional challenge. The tax is illegal and only the provincial legislature can set a provincial tax and the HST is a Federal tax. The Province gives up the PST for a share. This also turns the province to a municipality waiting for grants from Ottawa. With the HST, 4 months are needed to tell Ottawa they need a change. This will result in 6-12 months to make a change and they can’t lock the change in for two years. The only change, which can be agreed to, is to increase the tax.

He explained there is a similar tax in Europe. This led to an underground economy where people were selling goods under the table. When they lost billions, they raised the tax and applied it to things like food and groceries.

The courts would have to rule quickly on the HST because normally, it would take 2 years for it to reach the Supreme Court and the HST, by this time, would have raised so much money it would bankrupt the government to refund it all.

The third leg is to begin recalls. MLA’s who vote down the petition will be gone after a recall and it would take 7 recalls to overturn the government. “And we will keep recalling their leaders until they listen to the people of this province.” said Delaney.

He explained they need 5000 signatures in every riding for success. People who want to be canvassers need to sign two forms.

There was a question and answer period. Councillor Rob Goffinet took the microphone first and thanked him for his service. He wanted to know more about how they collect signatures. Vander Zalm stated he has not seen the petition yet but he was able to explain how they worked.

Austin took the stand as a citizen wanting to know if there would be a tally as they go. Delaney answered there would not be a count during the petition. There is a 42 day period for the count. They want 15% because the requirement is 10% and there will be voters who were ineligible or voted twice. They have people in place to make certain they know where they are on a daily basis. They plan to go door to door. They want to get it done within two month.

Vander Zalm pointed out the underground economy could surface in Kitimat. Gale Colavak of the Salvation Army wanted to know how it would affect the second hand organizations. Delaney replied they do not know the answer at this time but the impact would hurt the people who are unemployed and it would hit them even harder. The unemployed should not give a tax break for a big industry. Vander Zalm said selling a vehicle privately would be taxed again, 12%.

Bill Volrath took the microphone next. He wanted to know where to sign and what he could do. It is not complicated for the canvasser. Once again, he explained how canvassers sign up. “The petition of course, this whole initiative petition is about the HST, the unfair cruel tax imposed on those who can least afford at a time when we are in a bit of a recession. This is also about democracy. If we are as successful as we believe we will be, this will be an exercise in democracy that will change the future for all of us,” said Vander Zalm.

He explained this is because there would be a historical record of the people overriding the elected representatives. For this reason, ending the HST is important. For further information on the fight the HST campaign, go to www. Fighthst.com

Vander Zalm pointed out they are receiving a lot of support from small businesses and not so much by large businesses. He added the money adds up and even the large businesses will hurt with 2 billion dollars being taken out of the economy.

Former Mayor Rick Wozney stepped up to the microphone to thank Vander Zalm for coming back. He wanted to point out there is a rebate for business owners on the PST although there would be no rebate for GST and HST. “For small businesses across the Province, the Provincial government is taking $1,200 out of your pocket. That is why HST is not good for small business,” said Wozney.

Vander Zalm pointed out there was another alternative to the HST, which would not hurt the consumer but help small business as well. However, this tax does neither and he said it was a tax grab. Another person wanted to know how the HST would stack with the carbon tax. “Haven’t you noticed how, since they put the tax on gasoline, the climate has changed?” asked Vander Zalm.

He reminded people the carbon tax was also going up and the HST would not cover it because they could not tax a tax.

“It’s very confusing but the bottom line is, you’re going to pay and you’re going to pay lots,” concluded Vander Zalm.