Today, we have the results of the people’s referendum on the HST. And we have good news: the people won over the arrogance of the Liberal government and its powerful friends.
It is a victory for fairness.
For a decade, the Liberal Party has shifted the tax burden onto B.C. families. A return to the PST will be good for communities, good for families and good for small business. It will make life a little bit more affordable for working families.
It will also ensure that British Columbia has control over its sales tax policy, now and in the future.
And it is a victory for democracy.
The people of B.C. sent a clear message to the government – that our voices must be heard and our democratic rights respected.
The Liberals said they opposed the HST in the last election campaign and then sprang it on unsuspecting voters. Premier Clark ran a campaign largely based on Liberal Party ads paid for by millions of dollars of public funds, and outlandish promises of tax reductions, promises she had previously committed not to make.
I am very proud of the New Democrat Official Opposition, who stood up from the start to oppose the HST. Over the past two years, we have gone community-to-community, door-to-door in this campaign. In the final two months, I visited 33 communities and was part of more than a hundred events. Earlier, like thousands of British Columbians and my fellow New Democrat MLAs, I went door-to-door to gather signatures in the initiative campaign.
I also want to congratulate Fight HST who worked hard to make this day happen.
What I found across B.C. meeting with small businesspeople, students, seniors and working people, were thoughtful voters who understood the issue. This was a two-year campaign, not a thunderstorm on a sunny day and more than 1.5 million people came out to express their views.
Yes, British Columbians were angry at a Liberal government that had misled them repeatedly for more than two years. But they also understood that the HST would take money out of their communities, out of local business and make it harder to make ends meet.
At its core, this was the people’s referendum. I think of the people I met in Kamloops and Vernon, Castlegar and Campbell River, and throughout the province, who set up tables in malls, talked to their neighbours and collected more than 700,000 signatures, something never before achieved, and something Christy Clark strongly opposed.
Simply put, it is a great day for our democracy. The people won over what may have been the most expensive election campaign ever pursued in B.C. by the Liberals and their allies – much of it with public funds.
Now it is time for the provincial government to move quickly to restore the PST – as it was on June 30, 2010, as it was on Election Day 2009. The threats made by Ms. Clark and Mr. Falcon against small business, B.C. families, health care in Kamloops and other regions must not be acted upon.
Now it is time to get down to business and address the real challenges we face – the economy and jobs, affordability, growing inequality, health, education and the environment.
It has been more than two years of a Liberal government that has done nothing other than the HST. They have let us down. They have failed families.
The people of B.C. made a clear decision.
New Democrats will work tirelessly to hold the Liberals to account as they implement the results of this historic referendum.
And we celebrate an historic victory that has transformed democracy in B.C. for the better.