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As final HST ballots flood in, business owners express feelings over controversial tax

Photos by Anja Konjicanin

"Today's the last day, and everybody is running there," said Angela Ip, sales associate at Secret of Beauty, pointing to the HST collection centre in City Square Mall on Cambie Street. 

Angela Ip

As the deadline for the HST referendum ballots nears, locals are hurrying through the busy mall with their yellow ballot envelopes in hand. They're off to the drop-off centre near Starbucks in City Square, one of the five locations that Elections BC has set up in the Lower Mainland for the HST ballot.

"Two weeks ago, I already put it in the post office mail box," said Ip. "I found that people are very concerned about this thing, but I don't know if (the vote) helps or not." 

"Where can I drop this off?" a woman who seemed to be in a rush approached Ip, envelope in hand. 

"I feel like a director today," Ip joked as she extended her hand to point the voter in the right direction.

Like Ip, many of the business owners in City Square cast their ballot, but were indifferent to the tax, saying it didn't affect their sales one way or the other.

"Before, they (the customers) paid 12 per cent, now it's still 12 per cent. It doesn't make a difference," Wendy Milta at Erika's Fashions said.

Wendy Milta

"For our business, it doesn't bother us as it does maybe the food court (businesses)," Ip said. "I heard the radio talking about the HST. They said if they were to cancel this thing, we'll owe more money and we'll be in more debt."

She seemed neutral about the outcome, however, saying the tax was not a concern for her finances. 

"I don't get anything back. I'm not really poor and I don't have any debts, so I take it easy."

She said the HST ballot set-up -- "No" for keeping the tax -- didn't confuse her.

"I just checked, 'Yes' (for) 'Yes,'" she laughed. 

Actually, a "Yes" means to extinguish the tax.

"It (the HST) is good for business, not for people," Ping Hung, an older woman, said, as she clutched the envelope to her chest.  She was confused as to why her family of two adults was only given one ballot between them. Her concern reflects the claim by Fight HST that hundreds of British Columbians have yet do receive their ballot, even though they are registered to vote.

With 1.5 million of the 3 million ballots in so far, the decision is expected by late August. 

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