Anti-HST campaigner Wally Martin poses with some of the signs distributed in Langley. He says campaign leader Bill Vander Zalm did not want them thrown out.

Anti-HST campaigner Wally Martin poses with some of the signs distributed in Langley. He says campaign leader Bill Vander Zalm did not want them thrown out.

Updated: HST defeat welcomed by Langley organizer

Kept signs just in case

The defeat of the B.C. HST was good news for Wally Martin, the Langley bed and breakfast operator who coordinated the local campaign to repeal the controversial tax.

“I’m tickled pink,” Martin told The Times Friday morning (Aug. 26), minutes after the vote results were released.

Martin had hung on to all the anti-HST signs distributed during the run-up to the vote, saying campaign head Bill Vander Zalm had sent an email asking people not to recycle the signs but to keep them.

From the tone of the message, Martin thinks Vander Zalm was worried the provincial Liberal government might do something questionable to ensure victory.

Martin said he got involved in the fight to repeal the HST because it has hurt the economy by sending BC residents south in search of lower prices.

“Because they’re going to the States to go shopping, they don’t stay here,” Martin said.

“It’s [HST] done us no good whatsoever.”

The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce campaigned to keep the tax.

Chamber president Denni Bonetti (seen at left) called the defeat a “disappointment” and warned the vote will cause “uncertainty” for businesses and their employees.

The chamber will be lobbying the provincial government to replace the HST with what Bonetti calls an “enhanced PST” that would have some of the “efficiencies” of the merged provincial and federal HST.

She would not give details.

She said the chamber sees no point in simply reverting to the PST as it was before the HST was introduced.

The chamber developed the “enhanced” proposal during the lead-up to the vote as as a fallback plan in the event the HST was voted down, Bonetti said.

“There was always a possibility [of a loss]” she said.

Still, she said, the outcome came as a surprise to the chamber, “not one that was expected.”

Langley voters narrowly supported the HST.

In Fort Langley-Aldergrove 54.16 per cent were in favor while in the Langley riding, 51.16 per cent voted to keep the tax.

Both ridings are represented by Liberal MLAs who supported the tax .

Fort Langley – Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman (seen at right) said the debate over the HST is over now.

“The people have spoken.”

Coleman believes a majority of his constituents supported the HST because he did a “reasonable job” of communicating the government position.

“I worked at that,” Coleman told The Times.

Thanks to the kind of companies they work for, many Langley residents saw the long-term HST benefits, he added.

“I think there’s a lot of manufacturers who educated their employees,” Coleman said.

Elections B.C. announced that 54.73 per cent of the 1.6 million British Columbians who voted in the referendum wanted it eliminated.

The mail-in ballot was forced by a recall initiative spearheaded by former premier Vander Zalm with political commentator and former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman..

The mail-in referendum question read: “Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)? (Yes/No).”