With just four days remaining for voters to decide the fate of the HST, NDP leader Adrian Dix was in Langley on Tuesday morning as part of a final push to convince residents to help quash the 13-month-old harmonized sales tax.
Speaking to about 20 people in the Mocha Room coffee house on Fraser Highway (stop number 34 on his tour), Dix argued that a return to the GST-PST formula would save working families thousands of dollars.
Holding up his own $4 cup of coffee, Dix pointed out that he’d paid 48 cents HST on the beverage — an increase of 28 cents above what it would have cost him just over a year ago.
Even these small amounts add up, he said.
“And it affects everyone. The basket of goods affected (by the HST) is much bigger.”
Depending on how it is calculated, Dix said, between 20 and 40 per cent more items and services are taxed under the HST than were under the PST.
And that money, he said, has gone to subsidize a reduction of taxes to big business, rather than fund health care or education in the province.
“The HST, at its core, is a tax transfer from businesses to working families,” Dix said. “That’s what the GST was.
“It gives Ottawa control of our taxation system.”
Asked what he would suggest as a fair form of taxation, Dix replied: “The province’s finances were better under the PST-GST. In the next five to 10 years, the province will be better off if we return to (the system that was in place on ) June 30, 2010.
“We need to re-link the taxes we pay to the services we get.”
None of the revenue from the carbon tax has gone toward transit or other environmental initiatives, Dix said.
“People in Langley have very indifferent access to transit. They pay the carbon tax and have no real alternative to driving.
“There is a disconnect between the taxes people pay and the services they get.”
From the beginning, said Dix, B.C. residents have been led down the garden path by the Liberal government, and the HST is just one more example.
“There is no question the Liberal party intentionally misled people (about the tax) in the last election,” Dix said.
“If they get away with this because people didn’t send in their ballots, it will continue,” he added.
Just 38 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2002 Nisga’a Treaty referendum, which was conducted in a similar format.
“We need greater participation,” Dix said.
“I’m as concerned about the turnout as I am the result.”
A quick show of hands seemed to indicate that everyone at the Mocha Room event had received and returned their ballots, despite July’s lockout at Canada Post.
However, Dix said he believes the interruption did affect voter turnout, and that a lot of people who’ve received ballots still haven’t sent them in. He urged those people to mark their X — for or against the tax — and return the ballot to a local reception centre before the 4:30 p.m. deadline on Friday, Aug 5. In Langley, there is one at Willowbrook Shopping Centre.