Newsletter – November 2009

Back to Newsletter Archive | Back to Island Voices

November 2009 Newsletter for Seniors on Vancouver Island


As presented to Seniors 101

by Bill Vander Zalm.

Bill Vander Zalm, Founder of the Fight HST Movement and former Premier of British Columbia

For almost 20 years successive governments in British Columbia, have refused to even consider the Federal proposals for a Harmonized Sales Tax. Successive Premiers and Ministers of Finance recognized it as being a very regressive tax that takes from those least able to pay and hand it to a select group within the business community, most especially big business.

During the Provincial election campaign in May 2009, the B.C. Liberals falsely told us that in no way would they impose an HST tax and at the same time we were told that the Provincial deficit would not change from the $ 495,000,000 projected, which they said was totally manageable.

Sadly things changed very quickly, when the truth came out shortly after the election. We were then told by the Premier and the Minister of Finance that B.C. had to impose the HST because Ontario was imposing it and we would have to compete with Ontario. This story was not believable because Ontario had already announced its intention to adopt the HST many, many months earlier and the Liberals would have to be totally stupid not to have realized that, honestly, comparing Ontario to B.C. was like comparing apples to oranges, Ontario is a manufacturing province and B.C. a resource province. To make it all appear even more of a lie, we were told that revenues had dropped off so dramatically that the deficit would no longer be the $ 495,000,000, as we had been told during the same election campaign, but would instead be $ 2,800,000,000, almost 6 times more. The plot thickened when we were told not to worry because the HST would create economic activity and jobs that will take care of it all, besides the Federal Government would give us back $ 1,600,000,000 of our own money, as a bribe, if we adopted the HST.

Part of the their strategy was to provide so little information that many might believe the billions of dollars raised by the new tax would prevent us from suffering further cuts in health-care, social programs and education. Fortunately, my team “Fight the HST” ( ) was able to make people aware that none of this money would go to government services but instead was simply a way of collecting money from the consumer to refund the same tax paid by certain businesses. Thinking the taxpayers were a gullible lot, the B.C. Liberals told us these businesses won’t pocket the money they’ll instead lower their prices.

The lack of information also makes it very difficult to calculate the added real annual cost to a Senior couple or to the average family so we can only estimate. We know that the new HST tax will apply to a new long list of goods and services. The purchase of a new home over a certain price, the cost of Condo Strata fees, the cost of renting, over the counter drugs, a number of food products, a restaurant meal, a cup of coffee, the newspaper, professional services, financial services, a plumber, an electrician, a gardener, a hair cut, a funeral service and the list goes on; they will all be subject to, or affected by, the new 12% HST tax. We calculate that the average annual cost to a Senior couple will be about $ 1250.00 and to the average family $ 2500.00.

Rather than create jobs and economic activity, as we’ve been told by Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen, the HST will cause further economic disaster and thousands of job losses. One of the first things we might cut back on, particularly seniors who so much need the outing, is a restaurant meal.

I predict that the restaurant industry could lose up to 20% of its present business and, as B.C.’s biggest employer, experience thousands of lay-offs. This will be a big hit on the many young people who get their start in this industry or use it to pay their way through college or university. Any tourist related business will suffer much the same consequence. Maybe hippie style hair-dos will come back into style as barbers and hair-stylists begin charging more because of the HST. I don’t know just what the affect on the home building and renovation industry will be but expect that a lot of people will continue in their basement suite because of the extra cost, more lay-offs. The Real Estate industry will need to tighten its belt. Closer to what I do, landscapers and gardeners will suffer a loss of business. Some of these laid off people, will find their way into a whole new Industry called “The Underground”, it’s where you “pay them cash to cut the grass” and save 12%. In some European countries, where they have a tax like the HST, the underground economy is almost as big as the legitimate economy – and these people don’t pay income tax either. Maybe a bigger bureaucracy will take care of all this.

The people smiling are the shareholders in the big public companies most of which are American, Asian or European. Share values should rise because of the extra billions you pay them through the HST refunds they’ll be getting. It’s naive thinking, if Campbell really believes it, that because of these tax refunds these public companies will expand and hire more people. It’s the world price of lumber, oil, natural gas, coal and aluminum etc. that decides their hiring and growth. It’s also dumb to suggest that these big public companies will shut down their open pit coal mines, their oil drilling rigs, their Aluminum processing in Kitimat, their timber harvesting etc. etc. and move to Ontario if we don’t adopt the HST.

The Maritime Provinces couldn’t resist the Ottawa bribe in return for selling out a Constitutional provincial jurisdiction though politically they were smarter than the B.C. Liberals by lowering the combined GST and PST. Quebec, as one would expect, took the bribe but kept control. In B.C., W.A.C. Bennett will turn over in the grave when Provincial tax rates and changes can only be made after approval from Ottawa – a sell-out bigger than anything we’ve ever seen in this Province.

Some of my wealthier business acquaintances say “Bill back-off, people will learn to live with the HST”. I tell them “if you’re earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year it probably doesn’t make much a difference to you, you can even afford to buy your big ticket items in Alberta, but if you’re a Senior or on a low or fixed income an extra thousand dollars or two per year is a big hit.

The HST is proposed to come into effect, well after the Olympics, not until July 2010. Long enough, they hope, that many will forget. The HST is a cruel tax that takes from those that can least afford it.

The “Fight HST” team, a small but effective group, coordinated by Chris Delaney, volunteering a great deal of time, started the process and kept it alive – we’ve kept cost to practically nothing and for the most part paid it out of our own pockets. People of all political stripes have joined us, which has given us media clout because we’re seen to be non-partisan. The Liberals in B.C. and, with some exceptions, the Conservatives in Ottawa are not listening and completely ignoring the majority of people. You may be asked to join the “revolution” because we won’t let go.

Bill Vander Zalm.
Founder of the “Fight HST” movement.


Bill Vander Zalm was the Premier of British Columbia from 1986 – 1991.