HST reaction so positive B.C. cancels mail campaign, minister says
The B.C. government has cancelled a proposed mail campaign to support its Harmonized Sales Tax because it says public reaction to the new tax has been better than expected.
Finance Minister Colin Hansen said he pulled the plug on the HST mailer Wednesday during a Liberal caucus meeting in Vancouver.
“I think the roll out of the HST has been smoother than we had anticipated,” said Hansen.
“There were lots of people that felt the mailer was not necessary and others that said they did not want to receive it. There was a sense that sending out the mailer could in fact exacerbate some of the concerns that are out there.”
The HST mail-out campaign had been a cornerstone of the Liberal government’s communications strategy to shore-up support for the unpopular tax, which came into effect July 1.
The government had tried to send out mailers once before, earlier this year, but had the pamphlets rejected by Elections B.C. because they constituted unregistered advertising during former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s anti-HST petition campaign.
Government had redrafted the pamphlets to take a broader look at B.C.’s economic performance, including the HST, said Hansen. But they were set to land on the doorsteps of residents in mid-August, around the same time two court challenges on the HST and the anti-HST petition were set to be heard in court.
Hansen said he had concerns about sending the mailer during the court proceedings.
The Opposition NDP accused the government of wasting taxpayer money by abandoning months of work, and challenged Hansen to reveal the costs.
Hansen refused, saying the money spent on HST advertising comes from the ministry’s existing public affairs budget and will be accounted for during next year’s public accounts.
The finance minister disputed the suggestion that government had wasted money, saying that while many of the pamphlets had already been printed, they could still be used later this fall during a routine pre-budget consultation mail-out process.
The HST, and the abrupt way it was introduced, is largely credited with dragging the Liberal party down to historic lows in public opinion polls.
Source: The Victoria Times Colonist