One of the most significant pieces of legislation that was passed in this spring’s legislative session was the bill that brings back the Provincial Sales Tax (PST). Although the legislation passed on May 31, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will not actually end until April 1, 2013.
The people of British Columbia fought long and hard to get rid of the HST and so it is certainly a credit to the citizenry that the BC Liberals were forced to take this action. And for that reason, the passage of this legislation should be celebrated.
But as often is the case with the BC Liberals, important legislation is passed without significant and necessary oversight and debate. In the case of the PST bill, it was introduced to the House with only eight days remaining in the legislative calendar.
This bill contained 255 sections and nearly 200 pages. This very important legislation should have been presented to the House near the beginning of the legislative session to ensure that Members of the Legislature had time to properly examine the act. The opposition needs time to fully question the government on every single section. That is how we ensure that legislation is written that protects the best interest of the public.
With only eight days, it was impossible to fully scrutinize this legislation, but the BC Liberals cut off debate and passed it anyway.
The new PST is supposed to replicate the previous tax system, but one key difference that one finds upon investigation of the new legislation is that much of the detail surrounding the establishment of the tax and any new changes to the tax can now be dealt with by regulation. The old PST required all changes be done through legislation which makes possible the full scrutiny of the House and the public.
While this may seem to be a small thing, it is indicative of the way most things are now done by the BC Liberal government. It is a continued centralization of power to the premier’s office and the cabinet, and it is a lessening of our democratic rights.
For 11 years, the BC Liberals have fundamentally changed decision-making in this province. In case after case, you have less and less say in how your province is run.
It’s up to us to stand up against this constant erosion of our democratic system. And remember, just like the battle against the HST, it is in fact still you, the voter, who has the final say.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding.