‘Move away from HST sooner’

18 months to switch back to PST/GST too long: Fight HST

Bell

Bell

The people have spoken, now get moving on removing the HST – sooner than the March 31, 2013 deadline announced by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon on Friday.

“They put it in as quickly as they did, they can take it out as fast as they did,” said Corisa Bell, who led the FightHST campaign in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

“If they don’t do this, they’re done, it doesn’t matter when the election is.”

“Hopefully, the government is honourable. If they don’t listen, this group will get together … and make sure they’re held accountable.”

The Harmonized Sales Tax went to down to solid defeat as 55 per cent of the 1.6 million British Columbians who voted in the mail-in referendum voted yes, saying they wanted to extinguish the HST and return to the provincial sales tax and federal, goods and service tax.

Both Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge-Mission had results similar to the B.C. wide vote.

Bell said waiting until 2013 to remove it is a stalling tactic done to appease big business and that FightHST will be pushing to have the change done before that.

“The honorable thing to do is to act on this as quickly, and enough of this, the people have spoken.”

At Austin Fish and Chips in Valley Fair Mall, Evelyn Ching would also like to see the process accelerated and wonders what will happen if an election happens in the meantime.

The B.C. government implemented the HST within two to three months, she said. But the government said it will take two or three years to remove it.

“It’s not quite fair for us,” Ching said.

She added that when the HST first came in July 2010, her sales dropped almost 25 per cent.

With a 12-per-cent HST charged on restaurant meals (compared to only five per cent GST previously), customers were paying up to quarter of their bill in taxes and tips.

Since then, she’s coaxed customers back with specials and promotions, but “it’s still choking our neck.”

She’s trying to maintain her prices while costs of flour, fish and cooking oil all increase, and hopes that reverting to the old system will give restaurants a break.

Uncertainty will grow in the economy as people delay purchases, Bell added.

She wants to buy a used car but wants to wait until the HST is cancelled so she’ll only have to pay the seven per cent PST.

She wants the old PST/GST regime to be returned exactly the way it was before the HST was implemented on July 1, 2010.

Falcon said he’ll do just that.

“I can assure British Columbians PST will not be applied to such items as restaurant meals, haircuts, bikes and gym memberships – just as it was before the HST was introduced in B.C.

“We will work as quickly as we responsibly can to return to the PST. We  have always been clear that, as the independent panel found, dismantling the B.C. HST and returning to the PST will take time to do properly, “Falcon said.

He estimated that scrapping the HST will cost the province about $3 billion in the next few years. The B.C. government will have to borrow to pay back the $1.6 billion transition fund from the federal government, with a payment schedule to be negotiated with Ottawa.

Bell said she wasn’t surprised by the results. “I’m happy with the result. It’s a good margin to win by.”

At first, she thought the Yes side, for extinguishing the HST, would win by a landslide, but then when the government launched its campaign, the result became less certain.

She added it’s also time for Liberal MLA Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission) to acknowledge the result.

Dalton said he’ll do that.

“We are totally committed to restoring the PST with the previous exemptions.”

It’s going to take some time to untangle the tax regulations to minimize the negative impact on the economy.

“We are committed to be responding to what the voters of B.C. made clear today.”

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Michael Sather said the defeat of the HST is “good news for consumers who are taking the brunt of a huge tax shift.”

He also hoped the switch back to PST will take less than 18 months.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce said Monday it was disappointed at the results and called for improving the PST.

Referendum

Referendum question: Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)?

Actual numbers:

• Maple Ridge-Mission, total valid votes: 19,219; Yes: 56% No: 44%;

• Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, total valid votes: 20,485; Yes: 57% No: 43%.