News Views: HST a tough sell

The HST really is costing us more money, and at the same time padding the provincial coffers.

A government-appointed panel has found that the Harmonized Sales Tax, implemented after the last provincial election and trumpeted by then premier Gordon Campbell as ‘revenue neutral’, increases prices for 17 per cent of an average family’s purchases, totalling $350 a year.

Furthermore, it won’t lead to anywhere near as many new, better-paying jobs as promised, or a noticeable reduction in retail prices.

It’s actually raising more revenue than expected, and helping low-income families.

New premier Christy Clark has ordered a mail-in referendum on the HST in June.

In the meantime, Liberal ministers like Kevin Falcon are sitting on the phone, telling anyone willing to listen that the HST is still good for B.C., and how scary it will be if voters reject it.

The really scary thing is, they’re right.

Dumping the HST and returning to separate provincial and federal sales taxes, the panel warned, would cost the government more than half a billion dollars in the first year alone.

And the province would have to pay back the $1.6 billion transition fund paid in installments by the federal government to B.C.

The panel study findings have undermined the provincial government before the referendum, rekindling sour feelings about the way the tax was introduced and suspicion of lies, dimming the glow from the new party leader. So much that Ms. Clark is now promising proposed changes to the HST before people vote in the referendum.

Reducing the rate could be one, but even knocking off one per cent would eliminate $800,000 million in revenue when there is already a budget deficit.

Unfortunately, the HST is likely here to stay.

The same can’t be said about the Liberal government.

– The News