'We'll honor referendum result' - Cantelon
Ron Cantelon believes the rejection of the HST wasn’t the best way for B.C. to go, but he says the people have made their wishes clear and he says he’ll both honour their wishes and work hard to make sure they come about.
“I think the people have spoken and its up to me to accept the results and work with it,” Cantelon said Friday. “The people will get the GST back as they requested, seven per cent — exactly as it was. Anything that was exempt then will be exempt now.”
The Parksville-Qualicum MLA said residents can expect to see little immediate change as a result of the vote to extinguish the Harmonized Sales Tax, but they will come, eventually.
“People won’t notice anything at all, as the change will take about 18 months to implement,” Cantelon said. “The HST rebates will presumably continue until it changes and then, of course, that will end. The next step is to have the finance committee go out to do consultation about tax changes.”
That consultation, he said, comes as a result of the governing Liberals learning a big lesson from the HST referendum result.
“With the magic of hindsight, there’s no question we did what we thought was the right thing to do at the time, but people need to be consulted when you make major tax changes,” he said. “That’s the lesson we learned.”
Cantelon said anger at the way the HST was implemented likely proved to be the key factor in the success of the anti-HST forces.
“People were reacting angrily to the way we introduced it,” Cantelon said. “That probably tipped the scales.”
The province, he said, is in “pretty good shape” financially, but he conceded there will be a price to pay.
“We have to honour the commitment to the federal government to pay back the $1.6 billion,” he said. “This will present challenges but we are good managers, we still have our AAA rating and we committed to increases in funding for health and education and we will stand by that.”
Cantelon declined to speculate about how or if the HST rejection would impact on the timing of a provincial election.
“I don’t know about an election,” he said. “It’s not for me to call.”
One positive aspect of the exercise, he continued, involves the high turnout for the referendum.
“It was gratifying to see the turnout in the constituency — the second or third highest in the province,” he said. “Whatever the result, people were engaged and people voted, so that’s a good thing.”