Unfortunately, the HST idea was poorly implemented. First and foremost - because it extended provincial sales tax to some previously untaxed items - such as the above mentioned snacks, newspapers, basic cable etc. In the Maritimes, people were compensated with lower tax rate - 15% down from 18%(NS), 18.77%(NB) or 19%(NL). But in BC, the idea to lower the HST rate from 12% to 10% was only surfaced at the very last moment. The compensatory income tax reductions turned out to be too minor and all the rebate checks had been all spent, so... The voters chose to bring everything back the way it used to be.
A great victory for grassroots democracy? I'll get back to that, but first it's worth mentioning that BC has at least two other taxes that could have been targeted. One of them, of course is the health tax - which is in fact nothing but a "head tax" of $726 per individual, $1308 per couple or $1452 per family. The HST could have been a great opportunity to just eliminate the "health tax" altogether, which in turn could have been a great way to compensate taxpayers for the broader sales tax base. The advantage of the tax reform would have been clearly visible and there would have been no need for the rebate checks - the ones that the province now has to repay back to the feds. How come nobody in the provincial government ever thought of that option?
Another malicious tax is the carbon tax, the one designed to put a price on
So, the outraged taxpayers turned on the tax they considered to be the most annoying. They came together, different forces but with one common goal, they made countless efforts to make the referendum happen and then - to deliver their message to the voters - and they won. They made their voices heard. But they ended up striking down the tax, which was the most honest and, if not the most business-friendly, then at least the least harmful. That move will result in lost economic opportunities for BC. The predicted extra GDP of $2.5B by 2020 is not going to materialize...
But isn't the referendum a great victory if not for grassroots democracy? Didn't it set a precedent that could be used in the future to get rid of other malicious taxes? For now, I doubt it. After making so much effort to hit the wrong target - will people have any energy left to strike the right target, to fight the "health premiums" and the carbon tax? I'm afraid that most may choose to stop there; that once they've won back their PST-free snacks, they won't care about what gets attached to their gas bills, their hydro bills and their tax returns. Yes, the precedent has been set, but I'm afraid that many will be just too tired to take advantage of it again. This weekend, many taxpayers believe they're celebrating victory. But without another referendum, the one that would abolish both the "health premiums" and the carbon tax, this will be merely an effort well wasted.