$5-million HST ad campaign "ridiculous," says Fight HST leader
Last week, the B.C. government kicked off its $5-million HST information campaign. The ads, which feature "stickman" figures arguing about whether HST is better for the province than PST and GST, urge the viewers to decide for themselves by finding out information on the government website, HSTinBC.ca.
Former B.C. premier and Fight HST campaign leader Bill Vander Zalm said he wasn't impressed by the campaign. "I feel the way most taxpayers feel. It's ridiculous," said Vander Zalm. Referring his group's province-wide petition last year which collected signatures from over 10 per cent of registered voters, he said, "the people have spoken, they know where we're at ... that money could be much better spent on helping children."
Vander Zalm questioned the neutrality of four independent panelists featured on the website's front page, who come to the conclusion that HST is better in the long run for the province.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, however, said that the website presents the pros and cons of both in a "strictly fact-based manner". He said the campaign was necessary to dispel myths about the HST among B.C. citizens.
"We’ve heard loud and clear from British Columbians there is a lot of misinformation out there around the HST," he responded. "In part, that is because of how government communicated with British Columbians, as well as misunderstandings created by the anti-HST campaign." As an example of the website's informative role, Falcon said the independent panelists featured in the site found that B.C. households would pay an average of $350 more each year on routine expenses, but that this could be partially offset by income tax breaks.
Vander Zalm disputed the figures, arguing that when counting all expenses (including non-routine ones), the annual cost of HST is nearly triple that amount. He said his group was going to begin a tour of the province on Monday in the leadup to the June 24th referendum on the HST. Minister Falcon said the government would also be touring colleges and universities to hold public debates on the issue.