North Islanders vote no to HST

The majority of North Islanders who voted in the Harmonized Sales Tax referendum said they wanted to scrap the controversial tax.  

The majority of North Islanders who voted in the Harmonized Sales Tax referendum said they wanted to scrap the controversial tax.

Nearly 20620 voted on the question: Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST and reinstating the Provincial Sales Tax in conjunction with the Goods and Services Tax?

North Islanders cast 11952 — or 57.97 per cent — Yes votes, while another 8666, or 42.0 per cent, said no.

Elections B.C. released results of the vote Friday morning that showed 54.73 per cent of the 1.6 million British Columbians who cast a ballot in the mail-in referendum voted to get rid of the tax while 45.27 per voted to keep it.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government is getting to work dismantling the harmonized sales tax, a job that may take more than a year and add billions to the province’s deficit.

Voting by constituency shows a split mainly along party lines. The strongest vote against the HST was more than 75 per cent in the NDP-held Surrey-Green Timbers and more than 72 per cent in Surrey-Newton and Vancouver-Kingsway, the home constituency of NDP leader Adrian Dix.

A narrow majority of voters supported the tax in Abbotsford, Fort Langley-Aldergrove, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Westside-Kelowna and other seats held by the B.C. Liberals. The strongest support for the HST was more than 64 per cent in West Vancouver-Capilano and 62 per cent in Vancouver-Quilchena, the seat held by Colin Hansen, the former finance minister who introduced the tax in 2009.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has estimated that scrapping the HST will cost the province about $3 billion in the next few years. The B.C. government will have to borrow to pay back the $1.6 billion transition fund from the federal government, with a payment schedule that will have to be negotiated with Ottawa.

The finance ministry also projected that the HST would bring in an additional $600 million in revenues in each of the next two years, based on economic growth and extending the seven-per-cent provincial portion of the sales tax to a variety of services covered by the federal goods and services tax.

Another cost to the provincial budget will be re-establishing a provincial sales tax administration and audit department. About 300 provincial tax collectors were transferred to the federal payroll when the HST took effect in July 2010.

Businesses will have to forgo input tax credits available under the HST, and convert cash registers and accounting systems back to collecting the GST and PST separately.

The B.C. government finished the 2010-11 fiscal year with a deficit of $309 million. Revenues for the year included the second instalment of the federal HST transition fund.