Opinion

Exposing HST Myths

As thousands protest, BC's government wildly spins its Harmonized Sales Tax.

By Bill Tieleman 22 Sep 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at www.cknw.com. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Tieleman addresses Saturday's anti-HST rally. Photo by Cassandra.

"I found a lot of the initial anger out there is dissipating as people are getting more information about the tax." -- Finance Minister Colin Hansen, September 19, 2009 on the HST

That's about as believable as the minister's pre-election claim that B.C. would have a $495 million budget deficit. Try $2.8 billion!

So after a great set of 19 rallies Fight HST rallies across the province, including 5,000 people in Vancouver, it's time to expose some of the myths and misinformation being spread about the Harmonized Sales Tax.

The TD Bank put out a report on the HST that has been seized on by some as showing the tax won't hurt consumers much and will boost the economy.

A Saturday Globe and Mail editorial states : "Four-tenths of a per cent, the increase that TD Economics predicts in the average consumer-price level as a result of sales-tax harmonization in British Columbia and Ontario, is an acceptable price to pay for greater efficiency and neutrality in Canadian taxation, and greater international competitiveness."

Oh really? Try reading the actual TD analysis: "In B.C., consumers will be subject to a 7 percentage point increase on the tax rate on 21 per cent of their expenditures."

Totally acceptable Globe dudes -- you are too kind!

Or this bit: from the TD analysts: "The tax savings for businesses is lost revenue for the Ontario and BC governments, and the tax revenue needed to support hospitals, schools, and social programs has to come from somewhere. And in this case, it will come from increasing the tax burden on consumers."

Will business really 'pass it on'?

And on what basis does TD Economics still say the HST will help consumers? Try this leap of faith: "There are good reasons to believe the majority of the tax savings by businesses will be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices."

Oh, right! I remember well how big businesses passed on the benefits of the Goods and Service Tax when it was imposed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney!

And of course, what's good for big business is good for all of us!

The bitter reality is this: consumers are going to pay an outrageous 7 per cent extra tax on all sorts of goods and services to subsidize the profits of big business.

The HST will add an extra 7 per cent to the cost of restaurant food, new homes, realtor fees, haircuts, gym memberships, airline tickets, massage therapy, bicycles and so many more goods and services that there isn't room to list them.

That means the HST will cost most British Columbians hundreds if not thousands of extra dollars in tax.

And despite paying those extra taxes, not one thin dime from the HST will go to improve health care or education or social programs. Instead it all goes to business tax credits.

If Colin Hansen thinks anger is dissipating he's living in a fool's paradise -- just wait until everyone figures out the HST will really cost them hundreds to thousands of dollars!

So, if by now you're mad enough, join 123,000 people on my NO BC HST protest group on Facebook. And sign up to stop this tax at Fight HST.  [Tyee]

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