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Opinion

HST Is About Democracy, Not Just Money

You'll be voting not just on tax policy, but also on the right way to make it.

By Bill Tieleman 21 Jun 2011 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Tell them democracy can't be bought.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." -- James Bovard, author

The Harmonized Sales Tax referendum isn't just about tax policy -- it's about democracy itself.

Voting "Yes" to extinguish the HST sends a powerful message to this and every future B.C. government -- do not mislead voters by bringing in a major policy that you denied you would before an election.

We've seen it before -- from this same BC Liberal government that said it wouldn't privatize BC Rail before the 2001 election and sold it off in 2003.

We saw it in Nova Scotia, where the New Democrat government said before the 2009 election it wouldn't raise taxes -- would even cut some -- but afterwards increased their HST to 15 per cent from 13 per cent.

There are always reasons why many governments insist they just had to break their word -- and usually have a few years to get away with it before the next election.

Not this time.

Historic opportunity

The grassroots rebellion led by Fight HST, which I helped create with former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, forced this month's binding referendum vote when the 2010 citizens initiative petition obtained more than 557,000 valid voter signatures.

That means that for the first time in Canadian history -- even Commonwealth history -- voters have the chance to democratically overturn a government policy that was imposed against their will.

That in itself is reason enough to vote "Yes" to extinguish the HST -- to punish a government that didn't respect its own citizens -- and teach all parties a lesson about political honesty.

Democracy is earned

Former premier Gordon Campbell could have listened when the petition was successful and cancelled the HST -- but wouldn't.

The BC Liberal government could have paid attention to polls showing over 80 per cent opposition to the HST -- but didn't.

New Premier Christy Clark could have been different -- but instead her government is running a $5 million advertising campaign claiming the HST is good for us -- while Clark actually claims she is "neutral."

And the BC Liberal Party's big business allies, the so-called Smart Tax Alliance, are running an even more expensive HST ad and automated telephone campaign.

They think democracy can be bought. Don't believe it.

Democracy can only be earned. And it isn't for sale.  [Tyee]

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