The rejection of the HST was decisive – more decisive than many expected.
While few gave the controversial tax much of a chance, many expected it would be a close vote – with the tax losing by three or four per cent, perhaps.
Instead, the HST lost by almost 10 per cent.
One of the most interesting things to consider is the geographical distribution of the “yes” and “no” votes. Many BC Liberal ridings soundly rejected the HST – notably in Richmond, Maple Ridge, most Vancouver Island Liberal ridings, Penticton, Boundary-Similkameen and Kamloops-North Thompson.
Closer to home, Labour Minister Stephanie Cadieux’s own riding, Surrey-Panorama, voted 53.3 per cent to scrap the HST.
In other words, support for the HST was weak, even among Liberals. This does not bode well for the party in the next provincial election. Any siphoning of support to a resurgent BC Conservative Party, or a decision by former Liberal supporters to stay home, will badly hurt the party.
The BC Liberal party chose Christy Clark as their new leader, in part because she had not been part of the government that brought in the HST. Thus far, she hasn’t seemed able to attract disenchanted Liberals back to the fold, and the referendum results are proof positive of that.
It is highly unlikely Clark will call an election this year, as has been rumoured for months. No premier is willingly going to call an election they should expect to lose.
Under the fixed election date law, an election isn’t supposed to be held until May 2013. This will give Clark time to try to repair the major damage to her ship.
NDP leader Adrian Dix was jubilant about the referendum results. Not only was the HST handily rejected in every single NDP riding, but many ridings he identifies as possible swing ridings either rejected the HST or approved it by very narrow margins.
Dix will also be encouraging John Cummins every chance he gets, because the more viable the Conservatives are as an option for dissatisfied Liberal voters, the better the chances are for the NDP to win the next election.
However, Dix and the NDP must put forward sound tax policies. Given that the HST produces more revenue than the old system, how will the NDP replace that revenue?
Or is it prepared to cut services and freeze public-sector wages?