HST vote reflects economic outlook

The HST referendum result might signal a greater political shift, something beyond a tax revolt or anger over an arrogant, untrusted government.

The HST referendum result might signal a greater political shift, something beyond a tax revolt or anger over an arrogant, untrusted government.

The idea of class-based politics, for want of a better term, after being considered largely irrelevant for the last 60 years, could matter once again.

The HST went down to a significant defeat, with 55 per cent of those who voted rejecting the tax and 45 per cent backing it. A majority of voters in 60 ridings voted to dump the tax; in 25, they supported the HST.

The new tax won the strongest support in three ritzy Vancouver ridings. Vancouver Capilano, average household income more than $140,000, topped the list.

The vote to reject was strongest in three lower-income Mainland ridings. Voters in Surrey-Green Timbers, where the average household income is about $70,000, were keenest on dumping the HST.

Broadly, the higher the income in the riding, the more people supported the HST. The lower, the more likely they were to oppose the tax. The trend was  consistent across the province.

No matter how you analyze those results, there is a significant division between the way people perceive their interests, based on their income levels.

Canadian elections haven’t reflected that divide for a long time, perhaps since the Second World War. Certainly lower income voters, particularly with union jobs, have been more likely to support the NDP. But voters from all income levels have found homes in different parties at different times.

Voters, broadly, have considered themselves middle class and voted accordingly. Even if they were, objectively, earning much less than others, people expected their lot in life to improve, and their children’s lives to be better still.

They voted to advance the interests of the people they expected to be. Aspirational voting, you might say.

Until the referendum. People now seem, once again, to be picking sides — by class or income, or simply based on the divide between those who are doing well and those who are being left behind.

Which suggests that more people are losing hope that they, or their children, will cross over into the solidly middle class.

That’s not surprising. My grandparents, British immigrants with limited skills and education, bought a house in Toronto for $500 after they had been in the country for a few years and he was working for General Electric.

When I was five, my parents bought a house in the new Toronto suburbs, sprawling out to accommodate the post-war Baby Boom. I bought a house in Alberta for $67,500 after a relatively short stint in the workforce. We all expected home ownership, opportunity and a better life for our children.

Now the average price of a detached home in Vancouver is more than $1 million. The jobs that once provided steady, good incomes for people in mills and manufacturing are gone.

And with them, the expectations of a better life have vanished for many British Columbians. They can no longer see themselves as middle class.

It’s a significant shift. Canadians have shared the expectation that they would do well. Vote Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Socred — they offered different approaches to a common, better future. Now, many have lost the hope that underpinned those votes.

An Ipsos Reid poll released Tuesday supports that view. It found that 49 per cent of those surveyed thought scrapping the HST would have a negative impact on the B.C. economy, while only 17 per cent thought it would be positive. But 43 per cent thought axing the tax would be good for their families, while only 25 per cent thought it would be bad for them.

Voters have rated the economy highly as an issue for the last few decades. Parties judged to be good at improving the economy won support across all income groups, because people believed they and their families would benefit.

But not this time.

That’s a significant development, especially for the provincial Liberals. Their message in the next election campaign, whenever it comes, will be that an NDP government would be bad for business.

The HST results suggests voters might be more concerned with whether the next government would be good for them.


Just Posted

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

A B.C. police officer shows an approved roadside screening device. Photo: Saanich News file
Woman caught passed out behind the wheel in Trail

Police located the 38-year old in her parked but still running car, and had to rouse her awake.

Jade Osecki leading a Fridays for Future climate march in Nelson in 2020. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Grade 12 student Jade Osecki wins Suzy Hamilton Award

Carolyn Schramm was also honoured in this year’s environmental award for West Kootenay women

Photo courtesy of Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar to install new technology thanks to $4.5 million in federal funds

Project features process to improve fibre processing and address regional fibre availability issues

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read