Over 275,000 participate in talking-taxes HST calls

More than a quarter million British Columbians participated in 11 HST telephone-town hall meetings in communities across the province in the last three weeks.

Of the 417,464 British Columbians who answered the tele-town hall calls – 66 per cent – or 276,504 people, participated in the calls and stayed on the phone for almost 17 minutes on average.

The tele-town halls were hosted by Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom and Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell.

Several communities and regions had very high participation rates: 76 per cent in the Fraser Valley and suburban Vancouver (Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody), 74 per cent in Vancouver; and 69 per cent in the Okanagan.

The feedback received from these calls will be evaluated to help inform HST policy improvements, as government looks closely at the options to improve the HST and the consequences of a return to the PST and GST system.

“Participation in the talking-taxes tele-town halls has far exceeded our initial expectations,” said Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon, “British Columbians were very frank and direct with their feedback and questions, and that’s exactly the kind of conversation I wanted to have before we look at policy changes to improve the HST.”

For more information on tele-town hall participation and on the HST, visit: www.HSTinBC.ca

The B.C. government announced the Talking Taxes public engagement process to expand the dialogue with British Columbians on how to improve the HST in the lead-up to this summer’s referendum.

British Columbians will be voting in a mail-in referendum on the HST. Ballots will be mailed in June and must be returned to Elections BC or a Service BC office by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22, 2011.

Community/regional breakdowns:

* Fraser Valley – 31,622 answers, 76 per cent participated (24,108) for an average of 19 minutes.

* Suburban Vancouver (Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody) – 50,402 answers, 76 per cent participated (38,522) for an average of 15 minutes.

* Vancouver – 52,939 answers, 74 per cent participated (38,958) for an average of 14 minutes.

* Okanagan – 44,747 answers, 69 per cent participated (30,882) for an average of 17 minutes.

* Interior and North Coast – 35,294 answers, 67 per cent participated (23,539) for an average of 19 minutes.

* Victoria – 25,431 answers, 66 per cent participated (16,897) for an average of 15 minutes.

* Mid Island/North Island/South Coast – 39,109 answers, 63 per cent participated (24,624) for an average of 19 minutes.

* Richmond/South Delta/North Shore – 45,713 answers, 63 per cent participated (28,845) for an average of 12 minutes.

* Kootenays – 28,171 answers, 61 per cent participated (17,316) for an average of 16 minutes.

* Peace River – 9,897 answers, 59 per cent participated (5,878) for an average of 21 minutes.

* Surrey – 54,138 answers, 50 per cent participated (26,935) for an average of 16 minutes.