HST in your hands

British Columbians are currently enjoying a rare opportunity to shape the future direction of their province through the mail-in referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax.

British Columbians are currently enjoying a rare opportunity to shape the future direction of their province through the mail-in referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax.

As former premier Gordon Campbell said himself before stepping down over the controversial tax, the referendum has given every citizen the chance to be finance minister in deciding the fate of the tax.

Such opportunities come along only occasionally and we encourage voters to avail themselves of it.

But this opportunity also creates an obligation — the obligation to make an informed decision that begins with an independent review of the available evidence.

As the days to the Aug. 5 deadline for returning ballots count down, supporters and opponents of the tax will likely step up their advertising to sway any last-minute and undecided voters.

Citizens can resist this wave by bracing themselves with a foundation of evidence weighed carefully against a range of criteria.

Much has already been said about the various pros and cons of the HST elsewhere and this space will save its breath by not repeating them. Nor will it offer a particular position because that would go against the practical purpose and the spirit of the referendum.

We want voters to think for themselves. We want voters to prove those wrong who question the wisdom of referenda. We want voters to further legitimize direct public input in major policy decisions.

But this process takes patience and preparation because participatory democracy has its own pitfalls.

When our politicians make mistakes, we always have the option of replacing them with a more competent bunch. But when we get major decisions like the HST wrong, we can only blame ourselves.


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