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Red letter day

AS British Columbians got their weekends started Friday evening, the deadline passed to vote yes or no to the HST.

AS British Columbians got their weekends started Friday evening, the deadline passed to vote yes or no to the HST.

Predicting which side will prevail is beyond the reach of our crystal ball, but we can confidently forecast that this will not be the end of the debate: quite the opposite.

We know that more than three million ballots were mailed out. But how many came back? How many will be rejected by Elections BC? The postal plebiscite, while less expensive than a traditional referendum, appeared fraught with potential screw-ups and alarmingly vulnerable to abuse.

If the HST stays, you can bet any appearance of illegitimacy will be seized upon by Bill Vander Zalm and his strange coalition of anti-tax and antiLiberal activists. It's hard to imagine Vander Zalm gracefully accepting defeat, especially if he can argue the public has once again been deceived.

If the HST goes, this government will face the excruciating task of firing up the old PST machine, as well as cutting the billions of dollars Ottawa will be expecting returned. All the budget pain the HST was supposed to ease will be back, with interest.

So while this weekend is only the beginning of a new chapter in the HST saga, it's worth recalling the historic events it has already included: the bloodying of a seemingly unassailable party, the fall of one of the province's most powerful premiers, and the first-ever success of a popular ballot initiative.

We've seen the worst and best of B.C. politics writ large - and it's far from over.

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