For the past two years, B.C.'s harmonized sales tax has captured headlines and ignited public debate — but it all came to head as Elections B.C. announced British Columbians had voted to scrap the tax.
Since the tax was announced in 2009, it has prompted a firestorm of debate and harsh criticism from its opponents, including former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, who has led the public fight to repeal the tax.
The controversy over the tax resulted in the resignation of a premier, a sharp dive in public support for the B.C. Liberals and the decision by one B.C. MLA to resign from the Liberal caucus.
What follows is a timeline of the public battle over the HST, detailing the twists and turns that ultimately forced a referendum on the issue.
- May 2009: The B.C. Liberals win their third straight election.
- July 2009: B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen announce the HST will replace the GST and PST with a 12 per cent tax on all goods and services.
- July 2009: Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm speaks out against the HST, spearheading the campaign against the tax.
- August 2009: The B.C. Liberals insist the HST was not on their radar prior to the provincial election.
- September 2009: Vander Zalm stages a series of anti-HST rallies, which draw thousands of protesters.
- February 2010: Vander Zalm's anti-HST initiative petition is approved by B.C.'s chief electoral officer.
- March 2010: The HST legislation is introduced.
- April 2010: Vander Zalm officially launches his anti-HST petition.
- May 2010: The anti-HST petition hits its critical milestone of 10 per cent of the province's registered voters.
- June 2010: Vander Zalm delivers the HST petition to Victoria.
- June 2010: B.C. Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom resigns from caucus because of public opposition to the HST.
- July 2010: The HST comes into effect.
- August 2010: A provincial Supreme Court justice rules Vander Zalm's 700,000-signature petition against the HST will be allowed to proceed, ultimately paving the way for the referendum.
- September 2010: Campbell announces the results of the HST referendum will be binding.
- September 2010: Documents show B.C. government bureaucrats were engaged in discussions about the HST with their federal counterparts well before the May 2009 provincial election.
- November 2010: Campbell announces his early retirement, prompted by the backlash to the HST.
- February 2011: Christy Clark wins the B.C. Liberal leadership, succeeding Campbell as premier.
- March 2011: The HST referendum is set for June.
- May 2011: Clark proposes to cut the HST by two percentage points by 2014 if British Columbians vote to keep the tax in the referendum.
- June 2011: The HST ballots are sent out to B.C. households.
- August 2011: The deadline to submit an HST referendum ballot passes.
- August 2011: Elections BC expects the results of the referendum on or around Aug. 25.
- August 2011: Elections BC announces voter turnout for the referendum, indicating about 52 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot.
- August 2011: British Columbians vote to get rid of the HST.