HST referendum – the real question

Over the past few weeks, many of you have come in to discuss with me the pro’s and con’s of the harmonized sales tax. The experience has been positive. I thank you and I urge everyone to get accurate information either from my office or from the website hstinbc.ca.

Over the past few weeks, many of you have come in to discuss with me the pro’s and con’s of the harmonized sales tax. The experience has been positive. I thank you and I urge everyone to get accurate information either from my office or from the website hstinbc.ca.

One thing that has become obvious is that many are frustrated with all politicians and particularly the former premier. That anger and frustration seems to be driving some of the opposition, though not all of it. To decide our vote on this basis may make a person feel good temporarily, but it is not choosing what is best for you and the province in the long run. In my opinion, voting yes to get rid of HST, would be a disservice to us, our children and grandchildren, regardless of how satisfying it might feel for a short while to kick us politicians in the pants!

But of course, the opposition is about more than frustration with politicians. The harmonized sales tax is not perfect, nor is any tax. The government did a terrible job of implementing it and explaining it. We also under-estimated the cost to families. Turns out that with a 12 per cent rate, the average family would have paid $350 a year more on sales tax with HST. There is also a serious challenge to our second-home real estate industry in the East Kootenay. I am working with the Finance Minister to find some mitigation to that serious impact. And there is also the impact on auto and recreational vehicle sellers who have lost some of their Alberta buyers. Again, I think there may be a fix to that.

But the real question to be decided in the referendum is: “Is it better to go back to the separate PST and GST at 12 per cent or keep a harmonized sales tax at a 10 per cent rate and work toward further improvements?” Remember, 80 per cent of Canadians and over 130 developed economies have a value-added sales tax.

Given that it is your future and your pocket book at stake, we hopefully can set aside frustrations with how HST was implemented and consider whether it is in our best interests to keep it or get rid of it.

I hope the following four facts will help you make the decision that is right for you.

With a 10 per cent HST rate:

1.The average family goes from a net cost of $350 to a net annual savings of $120. That’s correct…you will pay $120 less sales tax if we say no and keep the HST.

2.A low income, single mom with 2 children will receive a $690.00 annual HST rebate plus $175 per child in 2012, a total of $1,040. If we go back to PSTGST, that single Mom would receive a maximum of $75.00 in total.

3.Seniors earning less than $40.000 per couple will receive $175.00 per senior in 2012 plus an annual HST rebate of $230.00 each, so in 2012, a total of $405 each. If we go back to PSTGST, seniors get no rebate and will pay $120 more annually in sales tax.

4.Voting yes to kill HST, is voting to raise the sales tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent.

Don’t let this referendum be about punishing the former premier or politicians in general. You spoke. We listened and have offered to improve the HST. Let this vote be about what is best for you, your family and our great province. A harmonized sales tax with a 10 per cent rate means significantly less cost for you personally, for the businesses that employ us, for seniors, and for low income folks who need our help. Please vote no to higher taxes.

Bill Bennett

MLA East Kootenay