HST Public Forums wrap up

Thu, Jun 9, 2011

For immediate release

HST Public Forums wrap up

METRO VANCOUVER, BC – (June 10, 2011) – A series of 11 HST Public Forums has provided an opportunity for more than 1,500 BC residents to hear directly from both official sides in the Harmonized Sales Tax Referendum.

The HST Public forums took place in 10 BC communities at public universities, colleges and institutes. The Forums were the result of the Government of BC's $500,000 Public Dialogue Fund. During each forum, the official yes and no sides presented their views about the HST Referendum in a public debate format.

In order to provide as many platforms as possible for dialogue before the referendum, the Forums were streamed live on the Internet and videos of each Forum have been posted on a website – www.hstpublicforums.ca  (updated April, 2014 - the website is no longer exists) and on YouTube.

During each Forum, each official side was given 10 minutes for an opening statement followed by a rebuttal and a one-hour question and answer session.  The two sides were given the chance to respond to each audience question.  Online participants were also able to send in their questions to each Forum.

Three organizations representing BC's universities, colleges and post-secondary institutions organized the Forums and administered the Public Dialogue Fund. The organizations are:  BC Colleges, BC Association of Institutes and Universities and the Research Universities' Council of BC.

The goal of the Forums was to provide BC residents with the opportunity to hear first-hand from both official sides in the referendum.  In addition to the Forums, social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook were also used to help generate informed discussion.

The post-secondary institutions selected independent representatives to moderate the forums in a non-partisan way. 

Statistics from each Forum:

Forum Number of  people in attendance Number of online viewers (live)
May 24 – Northern Lights College, Dawson Creek 72 30
May 26 – University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George 154 55
May 27 – Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops 55 35
May 30 – Okanagan College, Kelowna 170 33
May 31 – College of the Rockies, Cranbrook 155 42
June 2 – Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey 140 60
June 3 – University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford 50 30
June 4 – University of BC, Vancouver 62 25
June 7 – Simon Fraser University, Downtown Vancouver 83 28
June 8 – Camosun College, Victoria 73 20
June 10 – Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo 120 37

The HST Public Forums website (hstpublicforums.ca) will remain online until July 31, 2011, so people can review the video recaps of each Forum.  So far, the site has had more than 9,800 visitors who have viewed more than 22,000 pages.

Videos of each forum, available on YouTube, have generated nearly 4,000 views.

There have been some 1,400 Twitter mentions of the HST Public Forums with a potential reach of more than 627,000 followers.

More than 4,000 people have visited the HST Public Forums Facebook page to engage in conversation. The page has more than 1,300 followers who have created some 1,100 posts with 78,000 post views. Almost 2,800 people have liked or commented on the Facebook news feed.

Representatives from two groups that were successful in their request for public funding were the panellists at each Forum.  In April, the BC Government appointed Stephen Owen, a former BC Ombudsman with extensive experience in public engagement and mediation, as an independent funding decision maker. His role – the Referendum Funding Decision Maker (RFDM) – was to ensure a fair process in allocating public funding of $500,000 to both sides in the HST Referendum.

Owen awarded two groups the right to apply for up to $250,000 each. The groups are the Fight HST Society (the "yes" side, supporting a referendum vote to return to the PST/GST) and the Smart Tax Alliance (the "no" side, supporting a referendum vote to retain the HST).

HST Public Forums Media Contact: Sam Corea
E-mail: media@hstpublicforums.ca