You can fool some of the people some of the time. Usually, fooling some of the people is enough to accomplish what you want. Exhibit A: Stephen Harper's Conservative government, fooling enough people into believing his party had an enviable track record of sound fiscal management.
You can fool all of the people some of the time. Magicians rely on this trick to make magic seem like, well, magic. It goes a long way to explaining why they don't generally show you the same trick twice.
But you can't fool all the people all the time. And that's where things pretty much went off the rails for the provincial Liberals last week. To perhaps no one's surprise - except economists, the Fraser Institute, the Vancouver Board of Trade and the CFIB - British Columbians voted to axe the HST, notwithstanding it's going to cost an arm and a leg to do so. Presumably, having already lost an arm and leg to the "revenue neutral" (sic) HST, they figured "in for a penny, in for a pound."
The vote wasn't even close; 52 per cent of eligible voters - a higher turnout than the previous general election - voted 54 per cent to scrap the tax. Had PM Harper polled such numbers he may well have cracked a smile.
So, what got people so riled up? The short answer is hubris. The Liberal government, particularly under Real-Entry Campbell, raised hubris to an art form... or so they thought. They not only lost contact with the political reality of ruling at the pleasure of the people who voted for them, they forgot the cardinal lesson of politics: Perception is reality.
They sprung the HST on people who had just voted them back into office, after completely failing to mention they might be thinking along those lines during the election. They apparently thought tax policy wasn't important? Especially when it introduced taxes on things previously untaxed?
They said it would be revenue neutral. That prices of goods would go down because business would pass on the savings of the HST to consumers. Less than a year in, it turned out revenue neutral meant an extra $700 million tax dollars in the bank account and no sign that businessfolk even knew what prices going down meant.
They said, "Oops, we'll fix it." In two years. One might have thought if they could introduce it so quickly, they could adjust it equally as fast.
Then to cap it off, they made no real attempt to persuade voters their nemesis, Willy Woodenshoes, was wrong and they were right. They used stick men to try to lie voters into thinking a reduction in the tax two years from now was like money in the bank today and they wasted a lot of those tax dollars ineffectively trying to do so.