Double message of the HST vote

“Yes, we have no bananas.” That old song came to mind when I scanned the pile of harmonised sales tax envelopes that must fit inside one another for the vote.

“Yes, we have no bananas.” That old song came to mind when I scanned the pile of harmonised sales tax envelopes that must fit inside one another for the vote.

The 1922 song could be replayed at an evening of ancient musical nonsense. Beyond nostalgia, however, the title strikes a modern political chord.

In B.C.’s double-sided flirtation with direct democracy, “yes” also means “no.”

Yes, we want to abolish the HST. An X on “yes” registers that decision. And it gives half an answer to an underlying political puzzle.

No, we reject the clumsy, deceitful way the tax was sneaked in. A “yes” majority says “no” to the government itself. That’s the second half.

B.C. premier Christy Clark helped draft the 2001 Liberal platform which promised not to privatize publicly-owned BC Rail.

She supported former premier Gordon Campbell’s regime when it broke its word about the railway.  She and colleagues who endorsed Campbell’s policies must carry the blame for the HST foul up.

Remembering these and other betrayals when we say “yes” to cancelling the tax, we are also telling the present government, “no, we don’t want to keep you on the payroll.”

That’s my personal take on the vote and my wish for its outcome.

Cancelling the HST will confer long-term blessings on us if it opens the way to rebuilding the tax system through provincial-federal public conferences that bypass the formal constitutional deadlock but link together experts, visionaries, lobby group pleaders, political technicians and taxpayers.

Inventive leadership is one requirement for such system-changing mobilization of popular thought. So it seems to me as I fidget with the ballot papers.

On the topic of clever leadership, Todd Stewart of View Royal misunderstands a recent column. He rebukes me in a letter to the editor, for my suggestion that former Senate page Brigette DePape, who grabbed national headlines by displaying a “Stop Harper” sign during the Speech from the Throne, has the right stuff to be a future prime minister.

“You would have us believe that Miss DePape is a simple page?” Mr. Stewart asks.

No, I wouldn’t. Mr. Stewart and I are talking past one another when he writes: “She is an activist and is known for protesting.”

Good for her, I say. It never occurred to me that she might be seen as a “simple page.” I was impressed by her brilliantly-planned stunt. In a world that cries out for an alternative to Liberal-Conservative orthodoxy with its domination by corporate money twisters, there is no better qualification for political star status than being a crafty yet principled rebel.

The people who are now revered as political saints were wily, devious operators — rather like Ms. DePape. You don’t climb to a high political perch unless you are.

U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt was as wily as they get. A shrewd brain prompted his actions to relieve the great economic depression of the 1930s and steer isolationist America into coming to Britain’s aid in the second World War.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill was “the canny political animal, very devious, bursting with energy and determination.”

Why is lying and promise breaking OK for FDR and other political masters, but not OK for B.C.’s Campbell and Clark?

Arguably, two words make the difference: competent management.

—G.E. Mortimore is a Langford-based writer. Think About It appears every second week in the Gazette.



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