Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett has recently been urging his constituents to access an HST website claiming that it is part of ‘public information campaign which shares both sides of the issue’.
Unfortunately, the report of a government-appointed panel on which his ‘public information’ is based is already discredited.
For instance, it underestimates the shift in taxation from the corporate sector to the rest of us by 100 per cent – $2.6 billion rather than $1.3 as claimed.
The report also estimates the PST previously paid by B.C. consumers at $3.81 billion and by business as $851 billion when in fact the figures were $2.53 billion and $2.13 billion respectively.
Hence the average B.C. family will see an increase of $1,208 in taxation per year instead of the $350 as reported by the panel.
Such smoke and mirrors cannot disguise the fact that this referendum, rather than being grassroots democracy at its best, is political cowardice at its worst.
If Premier Clark had an iota of political courage, she would have called a debate in the provincial legislature so that all those B.C. Liberal MLAs – who, like Mr. Bennett, voted enthusiastically in favour of Campbell’s 2001 tax cuts for the rich and famous – could stand up and be counted.
Voting by referendum simply allows them to escape public scrutiny.
And issuing public statements wouldn’t help.
After all, Brian Mulroney stated in 1991 that the GST was revenue-neutral and former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen originally stated that the HST was also revenue-neutral.
Nevertheless, Mr. Bennett could let his constituents know how he voted – and why.
Which is what the whole referendum issue is anyway.