Former premier is still doing fantastic

Bill Vander Zalm talks taxes and how every B.C. party has an expiry date

Bill Vander Zalm, B.C.'s 28th premier, played a leading role in ridding the province of the HST, which was replaced by the PST/ GST earlier this month. The long-time Ladner resident, who turns 79 next month, is still a going concern.

Q: How are you and Lillian doing?

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Fantastic. She's trying to get me on this exercise machine. I get my exercise doing my gardening and landscaping.

Q: Are you satisfied with the HST results?

I am satisfied with the HST results very much so because the HST is a wrong tax. It's the way the world is going. It's a national tax, which will eventually be a global tax. The rational is it levels the playing field, but there is no middle class. If we lose the middle class, we are in trouble. The people at the top can demand bigger wages but the middle class competes with other countries that have low incomes. It's not good for the rich to get richer when they're pulling down all the others.

Q: In hindsight, is there a different way to bring in a federal tax?

National tax bothers me. PST has been in for 60 years and it can be improved. You do not tax services; you can tax goods but not services. You lose jobs if you tax services. We can improve on the PST.

Q: As far as the property purchase tax, did you realize the cost of homes was going to go up as far as they have?

We did, which is why in the legislation the B.C. Liberals removed, we had two provisions. One was that the PPT was indexed in case of inflation, and secondly that first time home buyers were exempt. The reason that we introduced it was that a lot of Hong Kong buyers were pushing up our market and they did not ever pay taxes here.

So, this is a way of having them contribute. When we introduced the PPT we also lowered the PST. It doesn't work and they should cancel the PPT, except maybe for the offshore investors.

Why should we continue to pay PPT on every home?

Q: Do you see any parallels with the fall of the Social Credit party and the B.C. Liberals today?

First of all, in fairness to all political parties that are in the running, this is probably the most difficult province in Canada to be a political player because we are very polarized - it keeps going back and forth. So the Liberals were really a coalition, like the Social Credit was a coalition, not that different from each other and often a lot of the same people.

Q: Is there a time fuse for every political party in B.C.?

Yes, especially in this province. Alberta can go on for 50 years with Conservatives. The media was very friendly once to the Liberals, but not any more. Once the media turns on a political party, you're in trouble.

Q: So the NDP is going to get in?

I don't think there is too much question about that. Hopefully there is opposition. So far, to their credit, they have been very careful, staying out of the media. I have long said it doesn't matter what political party gets in any more, we are living in a very different time. What we need is systemic change; we need to change the system. Otherwise it's a merry-go-round.

Q: You have lived the dream; you have good health, a nice home, long political experience. What does the future hold?

I am no way as wealthy as some think I am, but I am very rich. Rich means you are happy with what you have. I know a lot of wealthy people who are not happy.

Q: Are you going to retire now and ride off into the sunset?

I'm prepared to consult with political parties and causes for free. I just about got involved with the issue of smart meters. That program has some health and security issues and there are some similarities to the HST in how they are introducing it. We have dictators in Ottawa and the provinces; that's part of the system we have to see change.

Q: You have a new book coming out?

Yes, it's titled HST, The People for Democracy and you can find it at www.hstbook.com.

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