HST rejected by B.C. voters

The B.C. government is getting to work dismantling the harmonized sales tax, a job that may take more than a year and add billions to the province's deficit.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon explains steps to return B.C.'s provincial sales tax over the next year and a half.

The B.C. government is getting to work dismantling the harmonized sales tax, a job that may take more than a year and add billions to the province’s deficit.

The HST was rejected by 54.73 per cent of eligible voters, Elections BC reported. The government has promised to abide by a simple majority of voters.

Premier Christy Clark vowed that the former provincial sales tax will be reinstated with the same exemptions that existed before July 2010. That means restaurant meals, haircuts and a variety of services will only be subject to the five-per-cent federal goods and services tax, but the transition is expected to take a year and a half.

Referendum voting by constituency shows a split mainly along party lines. The strongest vote against the HST was more than 75 per cent in the NDP-held Surrey-Green Timbers and more than 72 per cent in Vancouver-Kingsway, the home constituency of NDP leader Adrian Dix.

A narrow majority of voters supported the tax in Abbotsford, Fort Langley-Aldergrove, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Westside-Kelowna and other seats held by the B.C. Liberals. The strongest support for the HST was more than 64 per cent in West Vancouver-Capilano and 62 per cent in Vancouver-Quilchena, the seat held by Colin Hansen, the former finance minister who introduced the tax in 2009.

A smiling Dix welcomed the result Friday as a win for democracy. He said the B.C. economy has performed well for decades with a retail provincial sales tax and he is confident it can do so again.

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm told CBC television he is relieved that his two-year effort to kill the HST has succeeded. He said he will be watching to see if the government introduces any other tax measures to recoup the revenue lost due to B.C. and Canada’s first-ever successful initiative vote.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has estimated that scrapping the HST will cost the province about $3 billion in the next few years. The B.C. government will have to borrow to pay back the $1.6 billion transition fund from the federal government, with a payment schedule that will have to be negotiated with Ottawa.

Falcon said there will be pressure on B.C. to contain spending, but he intends to meet his target of returning to a balanced budget by 2013-14.

The finance ministry projected that the HST would bring in an additional $600 million in revenues in each of the next two years, based on economic growth and extending the seven-per-cent provincial portion of the sales tax to a variety of services.

Another cost to the provincial budget will be re-establishing a provincial sales tax administration and audit department. About 300 provincial tax collectors were transferred to the federal payroll when the HST took effect in July 2010.

Businesses will have to forgo input tax credits available under the HST, and convert cash registers and accounting systems back to collecting the GST and PST separately.

The B.C. government finished the 2010-11 fiscal year with a deficit of $309 million. Revenues for the year included the second instalment of the federal HST transition fund.

Just Posted

Rossland council split on arena fix

Rossland council approves band-aid for arena, while its future is debated

Fruitvale man identified in fatal zipline accident in Thailand

Spencer Donaldson, 25, was from Fruitvale, B.C., the city’s mayor has confirmed

Fruitvale man, 25, dies after falling from zipline in Thailand, reports say

Bangkok Post says man fell from Flight of the Gibbon zipline in Chiang Mai

Facing high regulatory barriers, Kootenay cannabis producers gather for support

Symposium on barriers facing legalization attended by hundreds

U.S. and Canada continue to talk Columbia River Treaty

Katrine Conroy says flood risk and hydro power were topics of discussion

UPDATE: Four victims identified in deadly Penticton shooting spree

John Brittain, 68, faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Child-proof your windows ahead of warm weather: B.C. expert

Fifteen children were taken to BC Children’s Hospital for falls in 2018

B.C. trucker pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal Manitoba crash

Gurjant Singh was fined $3,000 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

More than $100,000 raised for family of professional skier who died near Pemberton

Dave Treadway leaves behind his pregnant wife and two young boys

BC SPCA asks public for donations after puppy caught in trap

The puppy’s medical bills are expected to amount to more than $4,600

B.C. party bus monitors required to watch for booze, drugs on board

New rule in time for grad outings, minister Claire Trevena says

Most Read