A costly lesson in what not to do

It’s safe to say the harmonized sales tax was a public relations disaster from the get-go for the BC Liberals.

It’s safe to say the harmonized sales tax was a public relations disaster from the get-go for the BC Liberals.

To introduce such a sweeping, last-minute change to our tax structure, one that shifts the burden of taxation from business to the consumer, with the addition of seven per cent on many goods and services that were exempt under the provincial sales tax, and during the middle of a recession, required a sales pitch even Mad Men’s Don Draper would have a hard time conceiving. Making matters worse were the mixed messages. On one hand, we had former Premier Gordon Campbell telling us that the HST was not on the radar in the last election. And then we had a different story from former finance minister Colin Hansen during his pro-HST roadshow in 2009.

“Well yes, we’ve considered it, we’ve considered it every year as part of the budget process, and every year we have come to the conclusion that the cons outweigh the pros of it…,” Hansen told a Shuswap audience.

Voters needed more than questionable concessions made in haste and a $5 million ad campaign featuring cartoon stickmen.

What may have helped was the voice of small business people, people who work in agriculture, our neighbours who actually realized there was some good to be had in the HST. What we received instead was a referendum that was an opportunity for many, likely, to tell the BC Liberals where to stick their stickmen.

It is no surprise Clark is now reluctant to talk election.


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