SKEENA’S NDP MLA isn’t convinced changes made to the HST by the provincial Liberal government will help sell it to the public.
Robin Austin said nothing has changed his opinion that the HST represents a taxation shift from corporations to individuals.
Provided the HST is approved in this summer’s referendum, Premier Christy Clark says her government will cut the tax from 12 per cent to 11 per cent next July and cut it again to 10 per cent in July 2014.
The province will also mail low income seniors a one-time $175 payment and a one-time $175 payment to families for every child under 18.
“It simply appears that the government is trying to buy the votes of people with their own money,” said Austin. He also noted the promised 2014 reduction is a “long way out.”
To help finance the reductions and payments, Clark said she’ll raise the corporate income tax rate and suspend a promised reduction in the small business rate.
“But if they say the reduction in the [HST] is going to cost $1.6 billion, that suggests it is still a very lucrative tax for the government and a benefit to the corporations,” said Austin.
“Big business didn’t seem to have a problem. They were quick to come on board with the changes.”
Austin said restaurant owners should be particularly upset because they are vulnerable to the HST regardless of its size and now won’t benefit from a planned reduction in the small business tax rate to zero.
Austin said he doesn’t oppose the idea of a harmonized tax in theory but “if all it does is reduce the corporate tax rate, then I’m against it.”
The MLA said he’d favour a harmonized tax approach if corporations paid what he called a fair rate.
“Now corporations will only get three-quarters of a pie rather than a whole pie, but that pie is very big,” said Austin of the pending HST change. “I’ve been here six years and all we’ve done is reduce the corporate tax rate,” Austin continued. “And MSP payments have gone up 160 per cent in the same period. So many of the changes here are so regressive.”
Clark said the changes, if approved by voters, will balance the burden of taxation more fairly. She said the HST remains an efficient tax because it does away with duplication.
HST ballots will be mailed out the middle of this month and will need to be returned in July. Results are expected in August.
HST supporters say voting down the tax will be costly as BC will have to set up its own sales tax collection system and send back $1.6 billion provided by the federal government to ease the bite on consumers.