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Opinion

Zalm Hates the HST, Too

Why the former Socred premier and I are fighting together on Saturday.

By Bill Tieleman 15 Sep 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at www.cknw.com. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Cartoon by Ingrid Rice.

"We definitely mishandled the introduction of the HST, which, to me, verifies the fact that we didn't plan on this." -- B.C. Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon

I spent several years doing everything I could to defeat former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm and his right-wing Social Credit government.

But this Saturday, Sept. 19 at noon outside Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, I will be honoured to share the stage with him!

So what happened? Most recently, the outrageously unfair Harmonized Sales Tax, which Premier Gordon Campbell wants to impose -- a tax that will add 7 per cent to the cost of a wide range of goods and services currently exempt from Provincial Sales Tax.

That alone explains politics making strange bedfellows. It's why I am working with Vander Zalm, B.C. Conservative Party Deputy Leader Chris Delaney, business groups and others to fight the HST.

It's why B.C. New Democratic Party Opposition Leader Carole James will be introduced by Vander Zalm, her political opposite on many issues.

But this isn't the first time I've worked with Bill Vander Zalm, B.C.'s colourful and controversial premier from 1986 to 1991.

Against selling out citizens

When the B.C. Liberal government in 2002 suddenly moved to privatize one-third of B.C. Hydro's operations, I contacted Vander Zalm -- which led me to be MC for "A Premier Event" -- a major protest in 2003 featuring Vander Zalm and former NDP premier Dave Barrett -- together for the first time, with then-NDP house leader Joy MacPhail, then-Unity Party leader Delaney and then-Green Party leader Adrian Carr.

All agreed Campbell's plan was a disastrous reversal of former Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett's brilliant 1961 takeover of privately-held B.C. Electric, showing the B.C. Liberals had abandoned citizens from the political centre, left and right.

Later Bill Vander Zalm joined labour unions, community groups, the NDP and Unity to fight against the $1 billion privatization of former Crown Corporation B.C. Rail to CN Rail -- another giveaway deal that has hurt the province immensely -- and led to the longest and biggest political scandal in decades -- the B.C. Legislature Raid case, and a trial yet to begin.

And finally I was pleased to work with Vander Zalm again when my clients, the B.C. Shipyard and General Workers' Federation, and many others fought the decision by B.C. Ferries and the B.C. Liberals in 2004 to build three Super C ferries worth $542 million in Germany, refusing to even allow Vancouver Shipyards to make a bid on the project.

When Bill Vander Zalm took to the stage at a rally of 500 shipyard workers outside Vancouver Shipyards alongside B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, it was an amazing sight.

But it was also appropriate, as Sinclair pointed out, and as the workers fully recognized.

After all, as premier, Vander Zalm was responsible for the decision to build the highly-successful Spirit of British Columbia and Spirit of Vancouver Island super ferries in B.C. shipyards, creating thousands of jobs and keeping millions of dollars of investment in the province.

Bill Vander Zalm, unlike Campbell and the B.C. Liberals, believes in standing up for British Columbia and its citizens, not selling them out.

Rally Saturday at noon

While I do not agree with him on all things political, Vander Zalm has proven time and again to understand the enormous negative impact of decisions made by Campbell on ordinary British Columbians and to speak out despite pressure from some to remain quiet.

I look forward to working with him and all others who believe the HST is a terrible tax for our province that will hurt our economy, deepen the recession and cost us jobs. This issue is too important to not work together and overcome some political differences so we can defeat it.

So please attend the Vancouver Fight HST rally on Saturday Sept. 19 at noon outside Canada Place, or other events in your area. Find out more about it here.  [Tyee]

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