Mission rejected, and accepted, the HST

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes.

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes.

The harmonized sales tax in British Columbia has been vanquished, thanks to a provincial referendum in which nearly 55 per cent voted to “extinguish” it.

Just over 45 per cent voted “no” to repeal the HST and reinstate the PST and GST, with a combined 52 per cent of registered voters weighing in.

According to results released by Elections BC, 54.63 per cent of 18,106 voters in the electoral riding of Abbotsford-Mission voted to keep the tax, while 55.8 per cent of 19,219 voters in the electoral riding of Maple Ridge-Mission voted to get rid of it.

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes said he doesn’t think regional disparities had anything to do with voting choice based on which party representing the riding.

“I don’t read anything into any of that, it’s just people’s personal feelings about whether they think the tax was good or bad.

“People look at their personal thing and they don’t look at the big picture, and unfortunately in B.C. this is going to impact business, and business is where jobs come from.”

But Mission business owner Ted Adlem, a former director on the board of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, welcomed the news.

“I would say the people have spoken, and had the government listened to begin with, they wouldn’t have put the people in a position where they had to speak,” he said.

Adlem said the restaurant industry instantly saw between a seven and eight per cent reduction in sales when the HST was introduced. He also expressed skepticism at the suggestion that reverting to the PST would make B.C. less competitive, citing Alberta, which doesn’t have the tax.

Carlo Billinger, co-owner of Rex Cox Men’s Wear on First Avenue, was sorry to see the results.

“The HST worked a little fairer for my business in the respect that everybody was paying the same tax,” he said, before adding he wasn’t surprised. He said people were understandably angry about the HST, not because of the tax but the way it was introduced.

“They should have taken it off food, and haircuts and beauty products and kept it at 12 (per cent) just the way it was and I think people would have been more receptive to it.”

Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce manager Michelle Favero said the chamber is looking forward to a decisive provincial tax strategy that is equitable for all British Columbians.

“The Mission chamber’s position on the HST has been neither for nor against. We recognized that some members definitely benefitted and others were hit hard by the transition, certainly in the restaurant and tourism industry,” she said.

Hawes said that many people saw an increase in tax at the cash register but might not have considered how it could benefit them down the road.

“Every penny that came in from the carbon tax was put back out in tax reduction in other areas,” he said.

The tax changes won’t be noticed in Mission businesses, or the rest of B.C., right away, with the province estimating it could take until March 2013 before the PST is fully restored in the province.