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HST defeated, but wins favour in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky

British Columbia votes 54.73 per cent to scrap tax; West Vancouver-Sea to SKy votes 60.78 per cent to keep it

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The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) may have won friends in Sea to Sky, but not enough across B.C. to survive a province-wide referendum.

Elections BC announced Friday morning that British Columbians have voted 54.73 per cent to scrap the HST, signaling a move back to the old Provincial Sales Tax (PST) system that was in effect until July 1, 2010.

In the Sea to Sky region, however, response to the tax was more positive. Results released by Elections BC indicate that voters in the riding that includes Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton voted 60.78 per cent to keep the HST, with 16,833 voting in total.

Larry Falcon, a campaigner against the HST during an initiative petition that sought to restore the old tax system, was happy at the news but added it could have an adverse effect on businesses.

"It's a sad day for businesses but it's a great day for consumers," he said.

Falcon joined the campaign while a part-owner of Wild Willies, a now-closed ski and outdoor store. Part of the business involved renting bikes, which had a tax exemption under the old PST system.

"With the demise of the PST we lost that exemption, bikes and bike parts accessories," he said. "From that standpoint, we were affected very readily out of the gate with it and that's why I got involved in it."

The demise of the HST got a very different reaction from Bob Adams, co-owner with Sue Adams of the Grocery Store in Whistler Village.

"Oh no," he said when informed of the result.

"I'm totally disappointed... It creates a second level of taxation that we have to deal with, and so that's an ongoing issue. We've got two different groups coming in. We can be audited by the provincial, as well as the federal, government.

"But secondly, I think we're going to have to go through and reprogram all our items in our store, you know, separating out which gets GST, which gets PST, and they're not the same necessarily, so you know, it just makes an awful lot of extra work."

Kendra Mazzei, board chair of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that she was disappointed in the outcome of the HST referendum, adding that a dialogue needs to take place that will put jobs first under a "competitive tax system."

"We will look to the B.C. government to support a new and improved PST that could include some of the efficiencies found in value-added taxes," she said. "This includes initiating a process of determining the best type of tax for British Columbia."

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