Ex-premier at HST session in Maple Ridge

MLA won’t attend, doesn’t want debate to be politicized

Former B.C. premier and FightHST leader Bill Vander Zalm is coming to Maple Ridge next week to slam the HST and rile up residents to axe the tax in the mail-in vote.

Vander Zalm will be at Maple Ridge council chambers on Wednesday, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

FightHST is the group that led an anti-HST petition last summer and succeeded in forcing the government to hold the referendum, a mail-in ballot taking place this month and next.

“People are encouraged to bring their questions and get clarity,” said Maple Ridge FightHST organizer Corisa Bell.

If voters want to kill the HST, they have to vote yes to a question asking if they want to extinguish the tax and revert to a seven-per-cent provincial sales tax and five per cent Goods and Services Tax.

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton won’t attend because he doesn’t want partisanship at the meeting.

“Just in general, when people go to this referendum, I don’t want them to be thinking this is NDP or this is B.C. Liberals or politics.

“I think it’s really important that people realize this is about the economy, this is about our tax system and trying to remove the little bit of political edge about it.”

And he apologized again for how the government introduced the tax last July.

“I fully recognize the way we handled it was really bad. We really messed it up.”

But it’s important that people don’t mix those feelings with the future of the province and the tax system, he added.

“I’m just trying to depoliticize it and I tend to think my presence … it’s really, again, is making it very political when that’s not what it needs to be.”

He said with the $175 cheques per child for each family during the first year, the same amount on a one-time basis for low-income seniors, along with ongoing rebates for those on low-incomes, that an HST at 10 per cent, promised by the Liberals on July 2014, would cost people less than a seven-per-cent provincial sales tax and a five-per-cent Goods and Services Tax

Bell said there’s no need for Dalton to appear at the town hall because the government is spending millions on pro-HST advertising.

“So they don’t really need to send Marc in to do that. He’s not the greatest public speaker.”

After leading the unsuccessful recall campaign against Dalton this spring, she’s not slowing down in her activism. Bell is now in charge of volunteers provincewide for the FightHST campaign.

“The more I educate myself, the more frustrated I am.”

Hearing Premier Christy Clark promise to reduce the HST also dismays Bell. Any hope she had for Clark is gone, she said.

Bell said the new tax now puts Ottawa in control of B.C. tax revenue.

According to an NDP news release, a typical family will pay another $1,000 a year because of the HST.

“The HST is a massive transfer of the tax burden away from big businesses and onto the back of working and middle class families,” NDP leader Adrian Dix said Tuesday as he launched his Vote Yes campaign to extinguish the HST.

“Hundred of items and services previously untaxed by the PST are now taxed at seven per cent under the HST.”

The government’s independent panel says the HST means the average British Columbia family pays about $350 more a year than it would have under

the PST/GST while reverting to the latter will cause a revenue shortfall of $531 million the first year. It also said the HST will mean families will pay $1.33 billion more in sales in 2011/12 while business will pay overall, $730 million less.

An HST Referendum voting package will be mailed to each registered voter in B.C. beginning June 13 through June 24.

If you do not receive a voting package between June 13 and June 24, call

Elections B.C. at 1-800-661-8683 (toll-free) before midnight Friday July 8.

• Returning the ballot package: Ballot packages must be received by Elections B.C., a Service B.C. centre, or an Elections B.C. collection centre before 4:30 p.m., Friday, July 22, 2011.