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Ballots arrive, debate rages on

Both sides claiming foul as HST referendum heats up

Delta South voters should have received their HST referendum ballots this week.

The ballots were to arrive in the mail between June 30 and July 7, but the deadline to mail them back has been extended.

Acting chief electoral officer Craig James recently announced he was extending the voting period because of the labour disruption at Canada Post. Voting was originally to have closed on July 22, but that's now been moved to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 5.

Meanwhile, the deadline for requesting a ballot package (for those who don't get one in the mail) has moved from July 8 to July 22.

While the controversy over the new harmonized sales tax continues, the referendum itself has also become contentious.

This week Fight HST leader and former premier Bill Vander Zalm said his group is asking B.C.'s ombudsperson to intervene to stop misleading and deceptive government advertising promoting the sales tax.

In a complaint filed Tuesday, Vander Zalm, a Ladner resident, asked Kim Carter to launch an immediate investigation into government advertising he contends falsely claims voting no in the referendum will result in a 10 per cent HST tax rate.

Vander Zalm's complaint states that it's deliberately misleading because it does not indicate the 10 per cent rate would not take effect for three years and is entirely dependent on the current government being re-elected and keeping its promises far into the future without regard for potential changes in B.C.'s economy or finances.

"Going to the B.C. ombudsperson is truly a last resort to force some honesty on the B.C. government HST advertising as people vote," Vander Zalm said in a statement. "Fortunately the ombudsperson has broad powers and is independent of this government, so it is our best hope."

As far as the ongoing debate about the tax, the Liberals' Delta South constituency association has been busy promoting the HST on its Facebook group, recently posting that the Delta Farmers' Institute also supports the harmonization of the PST and GST.

The riding association also noted the Smart Tax Alliance, a pro-HST business group, has filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada over what it claims are misleading radio ads by Fight HST.

The Fraser Institute recently released a report on this year's Tax Freedom Day, the day when individuals start working for themselves after paying off the total tax bill imposed on them by all levels of government. The institute noted in 2011 it came on Monday, June 6, two days later than in 2010.

If voters kill the HST in the upcoming referendum, B.C. families will likely be celebrating a later Tax Freedom Day in years to come, warned Niels Veldhuis, Fraser Institute senior economist and co-author of the report.

Veldhuis, a Tsawwassen resident, said if voters decide to keep the HST, Tax Freedom Day would arrive on June 3 rather than June 6.

Fight HST, however, maintains the HST increases taxes for British Columbians and that working families are hardest hit.

For more information about the referendum or to request a ballot, visit and click on HST Referendum 2011.