Hypothetical situation: My teenager carves into himself a tattoo, which I find offensive.
There are two issues here.
First, in bypassing the expected “ask me first,” process, our relationship has been seriously harmed by a violation of trust.
Second, the tattoo exists, and now my child must wear it.
Of course my first reaction will be an emotional one, to rant and rave and make no doubt about my feelings.
“You were seriously out of line to make this decision without talking to me, young man, you are ‘so’ grounded!”
Next, as a rational and thinking parent, I hope my response will be to help figure out how this tattoo will affect his life situations, and consider together a plan that will work and hopefully manage to rebuild our relationship.
After all, my child hasn’t changed. The tattoo is what it is.
So here’s the parable. The tattoo is the HST. “Baaaaad move, Mr. Campbell,” you really destroyed our trust in how government works.
In a people’s petition a year ago, B.C. voters gave that message loud and clear, “You really blew it! You need to ask us first!”
But here’s the thing. We pay taxes, it’s how we have schools, roads, hospitals, and other things we take for granted.
Now we pay taxes on services too, and yes that sucks – for low-income households, that’s a particularly hard blow.
But it is what it is. In an (embarassingly transparent) effort to soothe voters the government “listened” and will reduce the HST, and make a gesture (apallingly reminiscent of bribery) to compensate families for a small part of what they pay.
If voters reject these incentives and go back to a two-part tax, there will be an enormous cost, both in the higher rate and in the bill for undoing what’s been done.
Back to the tattoo.
As a tough-nosed parent I could employ expensive plastic surgeons to surgically remove the offending artwork and thus make my point. This route would involve untold pain and suffering, incur lifelong scarring and leave me (me!) with massive medical bills.
Does this mean I win? Of course not. Nobody does. So it is with the HST. It is what it is. Now it’s time to move forward.
So here’s the point.
In step one we told our government the HST fiasco was a serious breach of trust. I signed the petition – did you? I even canvassed for signatures and would do the same again in a heartbeat.
But now we’re at step two, and have to figure out the best way forward.
Voting to go back to the old tax is not “teaching them a lesson,” it’s peeling off a vicious scab at enormous cost to the taxpayer’s pocket.
Please vote in this referendum, friends. Making our voices heard is exactly what this whole mess is about. But don’t confuse your vote with a need to punish our MLAs. Taxes hurt, government needs to listen. Points heard. Bottom line? The HST is what it is but the old system isn’t necessarily worth going back to.