Premier Christy Clark was left to answer questions about whether the B.C. Liberal Party would bring back the HST, following an all-candidates meeting for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding.
“If you look across the country, every province has gone to an HST,” Liberal incumbent Doug Bing said at the meeting. “We’re being left behind. It’s causing problems for our economy.”
After the meeting, political opponents pounced on the idea that the Liberals are considering a return of the HST, but Clark is denying that.
“We will not consider an HST as long as I am premier of British Colmbia. We’re not bringing it back,” she said.
“We’ll be prepared to talk to the business community and British Columbians about different ways we can reach tax competitiveness, but it isn’t going to be a HST. We’ve been down that road. It ended badly. People didn’t like it.”
At the debate, April 25 in Pitt Meadows, moderator Bart Findlay posed the question: “Do you believe the government should reform the provincial sales tax? If so, then how?”
Bing touted the now-defunct Harmonized Sales Tax, which was killed in a province-wide referendum in 2011 after 55 per cent of voters were against it.
“Six years ago, we had a very competitive tax system. It was called the HST. And if you remember, the HST was simply the GST plus the PST,” said Bing.
The 12 per cent Harmonized Sales Tax had been imposed by the Liberals in 2009, after the provicial election.
“Because the referendum was politicized, the public voted down the HST, and went back to our original system of the PST and the GST being separate,” said Bing.
“And yet, if you talk to any any professional – accounting – they tell you that HST was the best way to go.”
He told the audience the government is reviewing recommendations from a Commission on Tax Competitiveness.
“I think that this issue has probably been closed for a decade, but I would think in the near future it’ll be revived,” said Bing.
NDP candidate Lisa Beare responded: “The B.C. NDP opposed the HST and will oppose the so-called made-in-B.C. value added tax that the Liberal government’s panel on business taxation recently recommended. Because it would massively increase taxes on consumers.”
The new value-added tax is one of the tax commission’s recommendations.
The NDP says a value-added tax would cost a married couple with children more than $1,000 per year.
Beare said Bing’s comments of last week were shocking to her because the HST was so unpopular. She predicted another value added tax, by whatever name, would be just as hated.
“British Columbians made it loud and clear – they don’t want it,” said Beare.
She said the Liberals promised there would be no HST during the 2009 provincial election campaign.
“One month after the election, they announced it,” she said. “How can we believe them now?”
On Monday, six days after the all-candidates meeting, Bing said he was wrong about the HST.
“I clearly misspoke, because the HST is not on the radar,” said Bing.
“It’s dead as a doornail.”