Anti-HST Petition Continues to Gain Momentum in B.C.

Ending a week of anticipation among anti-HST campaigners in British Columbia, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled today that the anti-HST petition led by former Premier Bill Vander Zalm is constitutionally valid. The petition is inked with more than 700,000 voter signatures.

The debate for and against the HST, or harmonized sales tax, continues to rage in the province. The tax is unpopular among restaurant groups and real estate industry organizations, whose customers will feel the brunt of added tax on goods and services. 

For example, buyers of new homes over $400,000 in Ontario and $525,000 in B.C. are now subject to more tax on the already high costs of properties in metropolitan centres such as Vancouver and Toronto. Already having to defend themselves against the federal competition bureau's campaign targeting the Canadian Real Estate Association earlier this year, real estate professionals now have to charge HST on their commissions. Home buyers also face higher taxes on most other service fees related to real estate transactions, although these are offset by a recent cooling in home prices. 

Conversely, resource-based companies and many economists laud the HST, which they say will benefit Canadians through the elimination of hidden tax, leading to increased wages and lower prices. 

There are likely business leaders who quietly face a so-called ‘catch 22’ in their opposition to the tax. Whether they are for or against HST, they worry about how the B.C. government’s broken campaign promise not to impose the tax is going to affect the polls. It is no secret that the business community in general is nervous about what effects overthrowing the current government might have on business investment and real estate values in the province. 

Political opinions and feelings about HST aside, if you are a champion of voter rights you are impressed by the momentum of this petition. It is a reminder to all of us that living in Canada enjoys us the freedom to vote and safely debate the decisions of our elected officials.

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