Public neglect cost B.C. Liberals 0
There is no real power in money, power is in the vote.
- Henry Wise Wood, 1920
The referendum vote last week to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax taught some important lessons - but is B.C.'s government listening?
First, the HST is a stunning illustration to politicians across Canada of what happens when you mislead voters before an election and surprise them after.
Denying that B.C. Liberals had HST plans prior to the May 2009 vote, and then announcing in July the tax would be imposed, cost premier Gordon Campbell his job.
Second, not consulting voters only heightened suspicion and anger.
No studies, no public meetings - nothing happened before Campbell claimed the HST was "the single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy."
Third, the B.C. Liberals stubbornly refused to listen to British Columbians who disagreed with the HST and didn't want to pay an extra seven per cent tax on hundreds of goods and services.
To an alarming degree, still voiced by some government supporters, anyone who didn't endorse the HST was denounced as stupid or worse.
"The highest form of ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about," was one HST backer's arrogant Twitter comment Sunday.
Presumably he thinks the 55 per cent who voted "Yes" to extinguish the HST were idiots, while the 45 per cent voting "No" to keep the tax were geniuses.
But the truly foolish were those running the government when poll after poll showed massive opposition to the HST.
That foolishness continued when the B.C. Liberals ignored Fight HST, the grassroots group I helped form with ex-premier Bill Vander Zalm, ex-Unity Party leader Chris Delaney and others, to oppose the tax.
They didn't believe Fight HST could possibly make the extremely difficult citizens initiative legislation work - but it did, with 705,643 signatures gathered in 90 days in the province's 85 ridings.
Premier Christy Clark then rashly thought a $5 million government ad campaign - and a big business effort likely worth $15 million, plus an HST rate cut promise years away - could buy the vote.
Wrong again - the people weren't selling their democracy.
Had B.C. Liberals simply listened, Campbell would still be premier and Clark would only be running a radio talk show, not the province.