HST Referendum: Voting with Spleens Instead of Brains

BC Business, August 26, 2011

The HST is dead. Long live the new tax regime, which will be exactly the same, only in two parts and much more expensive.

So, the HST goes down, knifed in one of the greatest examples of emotions ruling heads in B.C.’s long history of emotional politics.

As one (sorry, unnamed – he doesn’t want hate mail) economist said after the results, “This is the most ludicrous economic action I’ve ever seen.”

What an unholy alliance went into the defeat of the HST in the recent referendum. A mixture of me-first and the hell-with-the-rest-of-you thinking, hatred of the governments and political enemies, all willing to give up all principles of community and what could only be described as a “mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” form of road rage.

But then, I guess that’s what amounts to public discourse in the modern age. The “people” get their say, even if they don’t know what they’re saying.

This wasn’t a referendum on a tax – that was only the excuse. Anybody with an ounce of sense could tell it was the only fair way out for a government that has to raise money for the ever-increasing demand for services such as health care.

It was a referendum on anger and “class” (big business vs the little guy) and hatred of those supposed big shots who seemed to be ruling our lives.

The tax was doomed the minute Gordon Campbell, who said no HST in B.C. during an election, turned around afterwards and said, Oh darn, we just discovered we have to put in an HST. If there was one person in B.C. who believed that, I’d like to meet him or her.

But cynical politicking is nothing new in this country. We’ve seen it for years. It’s just that no one ever could do anything about it.

Now they could. Modern communications allows a version of discourse to reach into all aspects of society. Social media has told everyone they have a right to voice their opinion, no matter how knee-jerk, bilious, and vacuous it is.

Anyway, what’s done is done. HST is dead.

Not taxation, however. Now we return to a tax system that will cost every B.C. resident far more than the HST ever would have.

One good thing that might come out of this ridiculous excuse for a vote on an important issue: maybe when they bring back the PST, they’ll fix it so it actually works. It’ll be the HST, but split into two parts.

Of course, then everyone will hate that. But who are they going to vent their spleen on then?