THUNDER BAY – Gordon Campbell, the Premier of British Columbia resigned. Campbell cited the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax as one of the reasons he is stepping down. Campbell’s popularity has sunk to about 10% or lower in recent months.
In his resignation speech, Campbell said, “It’s time for a new person to lead. I am asking the party to move as quickly as possible to organize a leadership convention. I intend to ensure a smooth and orderly transition. My goal is to return public attention to what is important to British Columbians – their jobs, their families and how government can best support them.
“That is what the decision on the HST was all about. I hope that my announcement today will allow British Columbians to move forward and fully consider the HST and the alternative on their merits between now and September 2011”.
In British Columbia in September 2011 there will be a referendum in the province over the HST. In Ontario the closest the province will get to a referendum will be the October 2011 election.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals have also been paying a political price in recent months, the HST, and a growing number of scandals are slowly reducing the popularity of the government.
Anger against the HST in Ontario has been very muted however, compared to British Columbia.
In the west, former Premier Bill Vander Zalm formed a group which collected 700,000 signatures on a petition calling for the referendum on the HST. In recent days, Sears has promised customers that if the HST is repealed that they will refund the tax to customers. Other retailers have not yet joined Sears in this move.
The contrast to Ontario is stark where the McGuinty Government has promised that 600,000 jobs will be created by the HST, but the province has lost jobs since the July implementation of the tax.
The overall mood of voters in Ontario’s civic election, is in line with that in the United States. Voters appear frustrated. The election of Rob Ford in Toronto, which some Liberal pundits and media commentators are suggesting is good for the Liberals seems, at least to me, as a major mistake.
At the provincial level, the political smackdown that George Smitherman received from Rob Ford was, perhaps the strongest rebuke of the McGuinty Liberals possible so far.
The problem in Ontario appears that McGuinty is increasingly out-of-touch with the reality of life for ordinary Ontario families. The attention paid to lobbyists, special interest groups, and green energy has massively outpaced the McGuinty Government’s understanding of taxpayers.
It is a move likely to end next October.