Official opposition NDP leader Adrian Dix rolled into Gerick Cycle and Sports Tuesday afternoon, the latest stop on his anti-HST campaign this summer.
Dix has been touring the local area, which according to him had the highest number of signatures per capita province-wide in the original anti-HST petition, making it the epicenter for the debate.
The key issue is getting people to mail in their referendum ballots, Dix said. Most people got their original ballots before the Canada Post lockout, but may have since forgotten about them over time.
“The last time we had a referendum with a mail-out ballot we had a 37 per cent turnout and obviously that’s what the government wants,” he said. “They want the money they’re spending on ads to confuse people on the HST and they want a low turnout, which is their only chance of winning.”
Dix said the HST, which was brought into effect July 1, 2010, is a tax transfer that’s hurting economies and communities, which is why he’s encouraging citizens to vote “yes” in the referendum to get rid of the HST and return to the old PST and GST system.
If the HST is scrapped in the binding referendum, Dix said the government should respect the will of the people but he isn’t so sure that the GST and PST exemptions will go back to the way they were on June 30 last year.
“That’s not guaranteed. But I think that if people vote for that, that’s what the government should do, that’s what I’m proposing, that’s what I believe should happen and I think it would be very difficult for the government to play games with that,” he said.
“They can — because they have a majority of Liberal seats in the legislature, and they’ve shown in the past at different times quite a bit of contempt for the public — but I think on this occasion if they tried that they would be very rudely received.”
“I think if they tried to take away some of those exemptions it would be a generation before we saw Liberals elected again in this province,” he stated, adding that the Liberals have been tight-lipped on what they would do if the HST is defeated.
Dix and MLA Katrine Conroy spoke with Gerald Klassen, owner of Gerick Cycle and Sports, via Skype from Vancouver. Klassen is deeply opposed to the HST because under the previous system, bikes were exempt from PST.
And while Klassen couldn’t say he’d seen a downturn in bike sales, he did say he had heard that bike business in Alberta is booming — because British Columbians were traveling there to buy bikes, rather than at home.
“We visited three small businesses and had some small sessions with business owners today (Tuesday) in Castlegar and Trail and yesterday in Nelson and the response has been very much the same — people know its hurt their businesses because its hurt their customers,” Dix said.
It also goes against the green movement that B.C. loves so much, they both agreed. Even as Vancouver builds more bike lanes, the tax on buying bikes and all bike products is making it harder for people to make the switch from cars to bikes, Dix said.
Dix said it’s great that some people support the HST because that’s what a democracy is, but believes everyone is in agreement that the Liberals misled the public about the HST.
“This is a choice between two tax systems — the GST and PST where the tax burden is shared between consumers, individuals, middle-income families and big business, and HST where it’s all on the consumer,” he concluded.
“That’s the choice, that’s what on the ballot and the government is trying to make it about everything but that because they know they misled people and that this is a major tax increase on working families to pay for a tax cut for big business.”
Ballots must be received by Elections BC by August 5.