Are you ready to cast your ballot on the harmonized sales tax?
Get ready, you might be voting soon … or not.
After musing about dispensing with a referendum during the B.C. Liberal leadership contest, premier-designate Christy Clark settled on moving the province-wide vote up from the scheduled Sept. 24 date to late June. But it isn’t clear how that would be done, or if it is even possible.
The vote is currently required to be held in September under the terms of the Recall and Initiative Act, after B.C.’s first-ever successful initiative petition last year called for the HST to be “extinguished” and the old provincial sales tax reinstated.
To hold the vote earlier, the B.C. Liberals would have to call the legislature into session to amend the act, or cancel the initiative vote and set a new date under the Referendum Act.
Whatever the date, a province-wide vote with election-style polling stations would cost an estimated $25 million. Elections BC would have to hire hundreds of temporary staff to run it.
Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James said in February it would take Elections BC about nine months to prepare for an election-style referendum, however Elections BC has known for a few months now that it would go to a vote so it should be well on its way to being ready.
Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen have both said the government should stay with the September date, to allow time for people to see the real effects of the HST and understand what is and is not affected.
A panel appointed by government finished taking submissions on the HST last week and has a deadline of April 1 to produce a report that will be made public immediately.
So, stay tuned, regardless of when the vote occurs, you will soon be inundated with all kinds of information about the HST. Some of it pro, some of it con … most of it rhetoric, spin-doctoring and hype.
The best way you can prepare for the vote is to keep an eye on your own purchases. See how much it’s costing you … then decide.