By Robin Austin
British Columbians have been paying the HST for a year, and they’re still feeling the punch at the cash register.
Now ballots for the HST referendum are in the mail and voters are finally able to vote the HST down once and for all. This of course is a total downgrade from the initial voting process that would have had residents hit polling stations to vote.
Here are the reasons why New Democrats are voting “Yes” to scrap the Liberals’ HST.
First and foremost, the HST hurts families.
The HST is a $1.9 billion tax shift on to the backs of families.
While the government is using millions of public dollars for expensive stick men ads designed to tell you the HST is good for you, everyone knows that many more things are now taxed under the HST.
British Columbians are paying seven-per-cent more for hundreds of goods and services including haircuts, restaurant meals, a daily coffee and muffin, fees for children’s sports programs, summer camp, and home repairs.
In fact, according to Statistics Canada, a two-income family with both parents making $50,000 is paying over $1,000 more per year under the HST, and that doesn’t even include big ticket items such as a new home or renovations.
British Columbians work hard, but thanks to the HST, a good home is more out of reach than ever.
Second, small businesses are also hurt by the HST.
The tax shift means consumers’ dollars don’t go as far, and as a result, family-owned businesses that depend on our spending will see a drop in sales. Service industries in our community like tourism, construction, and the restaurant sector are hit especially hard. In my constituency of Skeena, there are already many business owners that have approached me with concerns about their businesses survival.
Many businesses are already struggling to stay afloat, and if the HST survives, it could be the final blow, especially in communities like Terrace and Kitimat, which have seen some major industries hurt to the point of shutting down. In these communities, businesses have already been struggling for more than a decade, and now have to face the HST, making survival insurmountable.
Third, British Columbians pay more but get less for health, education and the environment.
Under the HST you pay seven-per-cent more on preventative health items such as nutritional supplements, acupuncture and other complementary health services. These things had zero provincial sales tax under the PST.
Many school supplies such as pencils, erasers, exercise books, rulers and calculators all cost seven-per-cent more under the HST, making our kids’ education even more expensive.
We should be encouraging action on climate change and local food production, but under the HST you pay seven-per-cent more for bicycles, energy efficient appliances, energy-saving home renovations and food-bearing plants and seeds for your garden.
Fourth, The HST handcuffs the provincial government from writing tax policies that would benefit BC, something that we have been able to do in the past. Now all sale tax policies will be written in Ottawa.
And finally, voters are still angry about being deceived by the Liberals and know they cannot be trusted, especially when it comes to the HST.
The Liberals said they were against it before the election, They then brought it in without any consultation. This angered not only the general public, but those business sectors that were promised to be consulted before any such tax would be implemented.
They promised it would be revenue-neutral, but it isn’t.
They promised it would create over 100,000 new jobs and lower prices, but that isn’t the case.
B.C. families know the HST is bad for them, and they remember how the Liberals lied to them when they brought it in.
For those living in Skeena, a constituency that has been hit so hard in past years, the HST and the deceit hurts even more.
That is why I am encouraging all British Columbians to vote “yes” to scrap the HST in the referendum.
Robin Austin is the MLA for the Skeena riding.