HST critics ‘making political hay out of scaring misinformed people’

The HST has been getting a lot of press lately, mostly by those who are making political hay out of scaring misinformed people. Regardless of who said what when, the reality is the federal government will provide B.C. with transitional funding of $1.6 billion that is slated to protect vital health and education services.

This is a guest post from former New Westminster Voice council candidate and current Arts Council President Susan Wandell, written in response to a media release by the local organizing committee for the Initiative To End the Harmonized Sales Tax that was previously published here.

The HST has been getting a lot of press lately, mostly by those who are making political hay out of scaring misinformed people.  Regardless of who said what when, the reality is the federal government will provide B.C. with transitional funding of $1.6 billion that is slated to protect vital health and education services.

In order for individuals to transition to this system, the provincial government has increased the basic personal income tax credit increase to $11,000 from $9,373, an increase of 17% which is effective January 1, 2010.

For low income families and individuals, a refundable B.C. HST Credit will be paid quarterly to offset the initial impact of the change.  The amount of the credit would be $230 per family member for individuals with income up to $20,000 and families with incomes up to $25,000.  The credit will benefit over 1.1 million British Columbians, and when combined with the existing low income Climate Action credit, a single individual earning $20,000 will be eligible for up to $335 in credits.

For new homebuyers, a partial rebate will ensure that new homes up to $525,000 will bear no more tax than under the current PST system, while homes above $525,000 will receive a flat rebate of about $26,250. There is no HST on previously-owned homes being re-sold.

Currently, we pay 5% GST and 7% PST.  The HST combines the two taxes for one 12% tax.  The HST would apply to the same goods and services as the GST with some important exceptions such as gasoline, home energy/heating, books, children’s-sized clothing and footwear, children’s car seats and car booster seats, diapers and feminine hygiene products.

All existing GST exemptions will continue to apply (i.e.; basic groceries).

Another component is that the Social Services Tax will be eliminated reducing tax from 15% to 12% on liquor served on site at restaurants and pubs.

The fact is, no one likes taxes and change is always subject to criticism, but taxes are a reality, and being well informed about what the changes are and how they affect the individual citizen is important. For example, this tax has been criticized as benefiting business at the expense of the citizenry.  Indeed, this tax will benefit business, but certainly not in the lop-sided manner that critics purport that it will.

Further, when business prospers, the immediate trickle-down effect is a thriving economy and healthier communities. Stronger business communities not only stabilize local and national job markets but also expands employment and salary opportunities.  Additionally, as good corporate neighbours, stable community businesses will again resume local sponsorship programs and donations to non-profits, but more importantly, the consequent increase in local corporate tax-base contributions will benefit and rejuvenate community-based services, including health and education services.

I urge every citizen to do their homework to learn about the effect of the new HST in comparison to the affect of maintaining the status-quo before making any rash determinations about the pending changes.

Susan Wandell

Susan Wandell is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

18 comments

  1. (anonymous comment) Hmm, so we should actually check out the facts of the new tax situation instead of automatically buying into the negative hype?! What a concept!

    Let me see, … HST as a possible means to economic recovery with spin-off social benefits

    Or, … maintaining the current, status-quo, downward spiral on both the economic and social fronts.

    Good post – thanks. I think I will check this out a little more carefully.

  2. Good article Susan Wandell!

    It's about time someone revealed some true facts about HST.

    It seems, once again, the NDP is on a negative anti business campaign to destroy the liberals without any plan of their own to boost the economy of BC.

    The negative and misleading rhetoric our elected MP's, and MLA are spewing through newspaper articles is becoming quite boring.

    Have these people not yet recognized that "Businesses employ people"

    That "employment means jobs". What is the reason the NDP are snuggling up to "Willie Wooden Shoes", who has shown complete diataste for the NDP for more than four decades. I am truly anxious for "the Zalm" to expoae his true hidden agenda for opposing free enterprise and betterment of a province he once ran.

    Get the facts before signing one sided petitions. Attend rally's on neutral grounds if you want true debate. And while finding the truth, consider anything said to destroy profitable businesses is wrong because without thriving business this country, and our city are doomed. We need much more than public service jobs supported by dwindling tax dollars. The naysayers should be supporting the HST to assure retention of their positions.

  3. Hey Honest John – is there any such thing as a petition that represents both sides? By definition, it must be one-sided!

    That said, I too am glad to have Susan guest post here representing the other side of the issue. And I do think it serves people well to look beyond the immediate effect on the pocketbook and think about the whole issue before signing that petition.

  4. As a basic philosophy, I am in favour of consumption taxes that contain exemptions for food and basic utilities. They are a transparent tax, and with can be a progressive form of taxation if low-income tax credits are included, in that sense, the HST is probably a good idea.

    My problem with the HST, and the reason I am hedging against it right now, is the dishonesty of its introduction. This sort of answers Briana's question about having a petition on both sides. We had an opportunity for one: called a Provincial General Election. We were, however, robbed of that opportunity. Surely the Liberals know the HST was on tap, and they made no mention until after the election, according to some, they specifically denied they would introduce it. It was a cynical, dishonest political move to introduce it so soon after the election, and the Liberals should be held to account for it.

    If the Libs thought the HST was a good idea, they should have stood behind it prior to the election, and let the people decide. Now, the Premier is suggesting that if the petition drive is successful, there is nothing he can do about it because it is a federal tax. It is cynical underhanded crap like this that damages democracy by eroding public faith in the process.

    And now Campbell is accusing Vander Zalm of being dishonest? We all know Vander Zalm is dishonest, we tossed him out of office for being dishonest. But I see a lot of pots and kettles here.

  5. Well done, Susan. Good to see a well-reasoned balanced piece to counter the hype. I'm very tired of being demonized by those who were elected to represent all of us and their followers because I'm a business person and co-owner of a corporation. You can't get much smaller than our 2-person small business, but the HST is all good news for us. Our rates will be the same or lower, because our costs will be lowered as a direct result of the HST.

    By all means, be angry if you believe that the Liberals tried to sneak something past you, but don't hurt the entire province by trying to defeat the HST just to "hold them accountable". That's misdirecting your anger like kicking the cat because your boss yelled at you.

    Let’s hope the following is a misquote and not an indication of how the NDP/Zalm anti-HST campaign is being run. This is in today’s article by Andrew Duffy in the Times Colonist about Serious Coffee and A&W joining the campaign by allowing petitions to be set up in their stores.

    "Right now we're just working on the logistics — when we can ensure we will have canvassers there on site," said campaign organizer Brad Slade, who hoped details would be worked out by mid-week.

    According to Slade, more than 300 people came out for a town hall meeting at the Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria Thursday night. "We got about 1,000 signatures at that meeting," he said, noting they also signed up 51 new volunteers and raised $4,500 to fund the campaign.

    I know the NDP have never been known for their business acumen or accounting expertise, but 300 people at a meeting giving you 1,000 signatures points to something a little off to put it mildly, doesn’t it?

  6. What a choice of words Ms. Wandell uses when she uses the term "trickle down." I tried to figure out where I heard that before. Then it came to me, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and of course, Dubya. Give the money to the rich people and it will trickle down to the lower classes. Aka Reaganomics. Look to the south of us and see how successful its been. What people like Ms. Wandell want you to believe is that somehow its perfectly fine to lie through your teeth during an election campaign. Repeatedly, the BC Lie… err Liberals stated "NO HST." Now we find out that less than 3 days after the polls had closed in May 2009, they were working with Ottawa to bring it in.

    Its not that people are against harmonizing taxes and streamlining certain aspects of accounting. People are against being straight out lied to by Gordon Campbell and his band. So now we have Ms. Wandell appearing as an apologist for Gordon Campbell. Not that surprising actually. But we have had 8 years of Campbell's "trickle down" economics. And rather than being open and honest about what the deficit truly was during the campaign, rather than coming clean with British Columbians, Gordon Campbell lied to the people throughout the campaign about the size and scope of the deficit, than tried to plead ignorance when it was way higher than he went around saying what it was.

    I eat at a lot of restaurants throughout the region and especially in New Westminster. Not one of them have come out and said "We love the HST, bring it on." I haven't heard a single small business in a competitive market with razor thin margins say "bring it on, I want to charge my customers 7% more for their haircut, their funeral service, their whatever else comes to mind that was PST exempt up until the Campbell Liberals openly deceived the electorate.

    Prior to becoming a legislative thug, err MLA, Kevin Falcon's claim to fame was the website, "Recall them All." I can't think of anything more appropriate than to recall any Lie… err Liberal MLA that votes in favour of this tax change that was foisted upon the electorate under a lie. Whats good for business, ethically, morally or any other way isn't necessarily good for the electorate. People want open honest and accountable government, that's what Gordo and his band of lie… err Liberals promised. Do the right thing, put it to a referendum, and if you lose, resign.

  7. Sorry… have to laugh at something else from "Honest John". About the NDP being on an anti business campaign. Last time I looked, Chris Delaney and Bill Van Der Zalm aren't NDP'ers. No where close to it. But I'll say this much, as someone who follows politics quite closely and considers himself "politically astute." One could call the anti HST campaign an "unholy alliance." I prefer to name British Columbia, Bizzaro Country now. Why? When I was in Grade 12, Bill Vanderzalm was the most right wing premier in BC history. He made Bill Bennett Jr look socialist at times.

    For all his wackiness in office, Vanderzalm only went so far. Never was BC Hydro up for sale, BC Rail sold off, BC Ferries converted to a quasi private company, or were people left wanting for education spots or hospital spots. One should stand back, history in mind, and think, just how far off the rails have things become that a former premier the likes of VanderZalm and the current leader of the BC Conservative party, share the stage with people like Bill Tieleman in a common battle, and in fact would share the same ideas and beliefs in terms of being lied to by Gordon Campbell as I do?

    I made that comment at something I was at, about how utterly bizzare BC has become politically. And someone said it right then and there. With Vanderzalm, Delaney, Tieleman, and even myself, there's a sense that no matter your political beliefs, the province comes first. And things like Hydro, Ferries, BC Rail, etc were legacies left to the future citizens of BC. Campbell only cares about his friends and benefactors. He's shown that time and again. There are reasons why he won the last election. Lying was a big one. But there are others involving the lack of an effective opposition electoral and communication strategy (this coming from a strong and unabashed NDP supporter.) and other reasons I won't publish publicly. But the fact you have such divergent forces standing together to take on this issue should show you just how out of touch Campbell and his apologists are with everyday British Columbians.

  8. I think the point of Ms Wandell's letter is being missed. This isn't a political issue; it's an issue of learning the facts before you believe a 'bad story'. I had an elderly friend tell me that she hates Gordon Cambpell because he was going to make her pay another tax on her prescriptions. She told me who relayed this information to her, but when I asked her if she knew this to be true she assured me it was. It is not true.

    I'm concerned that people seem to be all too happy to believe what they're told without asking for evidence or finding out for themselves.

    I have to wonder how long it will take my older friend to take her rebate cheque to the bank.

    Please take the time to ask questions and do your research before blasting 'what you heard'. Your hairdresser's neighbour's boyfriend's aunt probably isn't a good source of information.

  9. I’m afraid Ann that it is a political issue. The Lie… err Liberals made it one when they deceived the electorate throughout the 2009 provincial election campaign. They lied about the size of the deficit, and about their intentions on bringing in the HST. Ms. Wandell is making it even more political by trying to spin the fact that the HST is good for all British Columbians and that those who oppose it don’t know what they are talking about. She defends the Liberals openly lying to the public about their intentions during the last provincial election campaign, and tries to defuse the anger in the province over Campbell’s horrible leadership and rotten credibility.

    I actually would question whether Ms. Wandell has any hope of any future political career in New Westminster given her blind, voceriferous support of Mr. Campbell and the BC Fiberals. She didn’t tell anyone that the tax is projected to cost $200 million in lost revenue in its first year. She hasn’t explained why Mr. Campbell and his band openly lied during the 2009 provincial campaign whenever asked about bringing in an HST. She is merely trying to plug the dam with her 10 fingers and 10 toes, against the public outrage that, as a province, we were misled and lied to by Campbell and the other Fiberals, whose policies and actions she’s so passionately trying to deflect and defend.

    Ann, in short here’s the facts for you:

    Gordon Campbell during 2009 election campaign: “We have no intention of bringing in an HST.” LIE.

    Gordon Campbell during the 2001 election campaign, “I will not rip up collectively bargained agreements.” LIE.

    Gordon Campbell during the 2001 election campaign, “I will not sell BC Rail.” LIE

    and my favourite of the 2009 campaign, Gordon Campbell, “the deficit is 425 million dollars and not a penny more.” BIG HUGE LIE. And ironically the LIE that he uses to justify the LIE he told when he said he wouldn’t bring in the HST.

    This is most definitely a POLITICAL issue. You can choose to sit idly by and put up with 4 more years of being deceived, conned, sold out, and put down by the BC Liberals and their crony agenda. Or, you can take the opportunity to tell them that the HST is something they said they wouldn’t do, and shouldn’t do. Not something that you start to enact 2 days after the polls close on the provincial election.

  10. Susan, having met you, I’m disappointed at the condescending tone of your comments here. Please don’t assume that people who object to the HST are reacting rashly, or haven’t done their homework. Nor is it the case (as some other commenters seem to assume) that those who don’t welcome the HST must be NDP voters taking a partisan stand. My family will certainly end up paying more tax, immediately, on the meals we occasionally consume in restaurants here in New West, on our kitchen renovation (if we don’t get it done on time), and on the tickets we buy to see and support local arts organizations such as the Royal City Youth Ballet, the Playhouse, Arts Club, and Ballet BC. Personally, it’s the arts ticket hit that troubles me most. At a time when the provincial and federal governments have slashed support for the arts, this is a very bad public policy. If you think this is a good arts policy, and the HST will be beneficial or even neutral for our arts groups, I’d invite you to post your reasons. Personally, I’m with Carole Taylor, a person whose judgment I respect, on this issue.

  11. Hm. Interesting. If the HST is that great, how come there was no mention of it prior to the elections last year? You could have explained it, you could have rallied for it. Everybody would have known what was coming up and could have made an educated choice. But no. The Liberals didn’t choose that path. Telling the truth?! No way!

    A few days after the elections, HST was suddenly a topic while nobody (well, except for the politicians planning it, of course) had heard about it beforehand. Can you say, “Completely fooled?”

    Maybe you are 100% right and the tax will bring more good than bad. None of it matters to me. The fact that the Liberals lied to their constituents remains. That is not right. And there is no excuse for it. None. This alone makes the HST a bad thing. Period.

  12. Markus’ last point is actually bang on. But here’s the thing that kills me personally. This is not the first time that the Campbell Liberals openly lied to British Columbians. They sold (if you want to play the word game, ok leased for a 1000 years the land) BC Rail to CN Rail for a dirt cheap rate. That was after Campbell stated during the 2001 campaign, I will not sell BC Rail. Campbell also cost the people of this province millions and millions of dollars in court costs, penalties, and ultimately severance and award packages for the HEU workers, whos legally binding collective agreement he tore to shreds. After telling them prior to the 2001 election that he would honour all existing collective agreements. The litany of lies goes on and on and on.

    But I digress. To me, what the HST campaign has shown is just how screwed up the political spectrum is in BC. The fact that I am on the same side of an issue with Bill Vanderzalm, who when I was in high school was the most right wing premier in BC history, and today looks like Karl Marx when compared to Gordon Campbell, should scare the you know what out of anyone.

    Average British Columbians are neither hard right or hard left in their politics, in my opinion. Most people in BC want good health care, education, and strong social programs, but also know that to have those, you need to have a strong economy. The 2 balance out. One doesn’t exist without the other. I consider myself to be a centre person leaning to the left. For 8 years, that balance has gone completely out the window. I won’t lie or hide, anyone who knows me knows I support the NDP. But… also anyone that knows me knows that I don’t blindly follow the readings and direction of Jim Sinclair and the BCFED, or some of the other so called power brokers in the party. I don’t agree the party on several key areas. I believe that Carole James was elected leader on a centrist platform, and has had that platform hijacked away from her, by some of the backroom people. The BCFED’s politics are not my politics.

    In his first mandate, Campbell ruled like a dictator, with 77 out of 79 seats. And he was ruthless, condescending, and deceitful. Not only that he hypocritically refused to resign after being convicted of DUI in Hawaii. After that reign of terror, the good people once again returned him to power. I shook my head in disgust. His first step after re election in 2005 was to buy peace with the public sector unions through the 2010 Winter games by bribing them with a billion dollars.

    This past election didn’t have to turn out the way it did. If the BCNDP had called BS on Campbell’s financial numbers the way Helmut Pasteriuk had, and run a more aggressive campaign, talking about things that had people wanted to talk about, had an economic plan in place or something of the sort, that perhaps could have swung the door wide open. But could of, would of, should of. We’re fortunate in New West that our candidate Dawn Black is strong enough to overcome what was in my opinion an inept province wide political strategy. Inept I say, because (though I’m not that big on environmental stuff) how can you be for the environment and anti Carbon Tax? Campbell squeezed them on several issues and the result was Campbell wins, the lie about the HST is exposed, and here we are today.

    The Anti HST campaign has brought people together who may not see eye to eye on alot of things, but know deep down when they’ve been screwed with. And Ms. Wandell is deluding herself if she thinks that the campaign is solely and exclusively anti HST. No. It’s people saying that they’ve had enough of the typical Campbell Liberal way of doing things: lie to the people, ride out the rough times and in 3 years hence get away with it through collective amnesia. To me, its also a lesson for the mainstream political parties: Big Business and or Big Labour shouldn’t have the strongest voices at the table. With the Liberals, all you have to do is look at the donors list and follow who has benefited from their reign. With the BCNDP, in my opinion, the BCFED has way too much sway in decisions, policies etc. Classic example, minimum wage. 2007 there was a proposal at the BCNDP convention to raise the minimum wage, while also reducing the small business tax rate. Balanced fair policy. At the end of the day, the policy was split. When the resolution was read out, minimum wage increase #1 on the list. Who wouldn’t get up at the BCNDP convention and speak in favour of it? And believe me lots of people did. So much so, that the small business tax cut didn’t make the floor, as there’s so much time allotted to debate (yeah debate a minimum wage increase at a BCNDP convention) an issue.

    I believe this was done on purpose, because we all know Jim’s view on business in BC. And once again, Sinclair doesn’t speak for me. Just as I’m sure that John Winter doesn’t speak for alot of the business people who are going to get hammered by the HST. What’s good for big business isn’t always good for small business or people in general.

  13. In her letter posted to open this blog, Susan Wandell stated the following:

    “The HST has been getting a lot of press lately, mostly by those who are making political hay out of scaring misinformed people. Regardless of who said what when, the reality is the federal government will provide B.C. with transitional funding of $1.6 billion that is slated to protect vital health and education services.”

    Protect vital heath and education services??? From what? No. It’s to protect the Campbell Liberals and try to save Campbell’s pledge of $425 million and not a penny more” comment when referring to the size of the deficit. I would normally feel bad for Ms. Wandell, trying to defend such deceit and lies, for perhaps being an ideologue, a blind follower, or perhaps reading from someone’s talking points.

    And one final comment:

    “making political hay out of scaring misinformed people.”

    At least Ontario went out of its way to set up a website to tell people what was and what was not going to be affected by the HST. We’ve once again been misled, misinformed, or for that fact not informed about anything with regards to the HST. In effect BC has been come a giant mushroom farm. People are living in the dark while Hansen and Campbell are feeding them a load of….

    In late April, the government talked about the HST being applied to things like Lions seasons ticket, pre paid travel etc effective May 1st. My wife and I are going to Jordan and Egypt next spring. Do you think we could have got a straight answer from anyone on whether or not we had to pay HST after May 1st or had another month to save some more money? No. So we pre paid and pre booked the entire trip and flights, 11 months prior to going in effect to try and save $1000. It was a panic, but we got it done. Turns out we were panicked for nothing, as the costs were not subject to HST (I think). Still, thanks for the stress, and Susan Wandell, rather than parroting the Campbell line, why dont you write a blog about what’s and whats not covered by the HST. Or talk to your political masters and ask them to do it.

  14. So, even if the HST was to be good for us, it is appropriate to lie about during an election campaign in order to win? What is the true long-term cost of that? Remember the Premier’s quote that “HST is not even on the radar”? Accepting this tax lets politicians know that a bold-faced election lie is not only acceptable, but now the proper thing to do.

  15. Dave. All Campbell did is follow the tried and true method of winning elections in BC. Tell the minions what they want to hear. And then right after winning the election, do the complete opposite. Give it 3 years, and repeat. Kind of like baking bread. But you’re right about what the real debate is about. Did you see that the Liquor Distribution Branch is increasing their markup on liquor effective July 1st, to take back what savings were going to be realized via the HST.

    Now if a publically run government monopoly is doing that, increasing prices to make more money off of people who are getting hosed by this tax, don’t you think that the average business will do the exact same thing. They could claim that due to inflationary pressures on the economy, that they can’t possibly pass on the savings of the HST to their customers. And if they all eat the savings collectively, there’s not a thing the consumers can do.

    What the HST is really about is the straight transfer of the tax burden and administration from businesses and dumps it straight into the laps of consumers. Funny how people in Ontario get $1000 and also a website that clearly states what is and what’s not covered, yet we in BC get the BC Liars club spinning a bunch of nonsense and not telling anyone what is and what’s not covered. Perhaps someone could get a hold of the resident Liberal cheerleader / apologist, Susan Wandell and she could inform people what’s exempt and what’s not. If even she knows.

  16. 4 months later, and it's still a hot potato.
    The housing market has slowed.
    Restaurants are feeling the pinch.
    Legal challenges to the citizens petition by 'business'
    FOI documents proving time lines before the 2009 election

    Header – HST critics ‘making political hay out of scaring misinformed people’
    redaeH – people misinformed of HST out making critics scaring 'political hay'

    Surprised this blog entry is sleeping, would have expected more considering our plight…

    N.W.

  17. I have a question. I work for a window company that installs windows. The company didn't pay PST on Energy Star windows only HST. Labour to install was only subject to HST as well because it was real property.
    Now both the windows and the labour are subject to HST. How, as a consumer does the HST make things better? Is it because I pay more for my morning cup of coffee? Is it because I pay more for my take out pizza? Really, as a consumer, how did this make it better?

  18. Well Wondering, in reality, it doesn't make it better for you or the majority of the people in the province. The HST benefits only those in the corporate and manufacturing side of our province. Both you and Norman before you are absolutely bang on. And really, when you look at the referendum campaign, its been the pro HST side that's been deceitful in their messaging telling everyone "its a choice between a 12 percent tax and a 10 percent tax." In fact, if the HST is extinguished, the government should go back to the previous PST exemptions. By their allies in the business community putting it out there that its either 12 percent PST / GST or a 10 percent HST choice, obviously the supporters of the Christy Campbell Lieberals know something the rest of the province isn't in on. That come hell or highwater, the Lieberals are going to continue to pick your pocket on things like restaurant meals, fitness memberships, clothes, morning coffees, etc. That they are going to be even more deceitful, by not returning to the PST / GST regime with its exemptions prior to the introduction of the HST. I honestly and truthfully am hoping that Christy Campbell… err Clark (hard to tell one from the other skirt vs kilt) either way this referendum goes, calls an election looking for her own mandate to govern this province.

    Given her record as premier vs what was stated and promised during her leadership bid, which ever way the referendum goes, she should seek the mandate of the people of BC to govern, given the wretched stench of the entire HST deceit and flip flopping. And given the fact that her Finance Minister is bound and determined to continue the deceit by making sure that what exemptions to PST existed prior to the introduction of the HST that were wiped out, are never brought back, no matter what the wishes of the citizens of BC are. The biggest knock on Campbell was that he was aloof, high handed and arrogant, as were and are the BC Fiberals. Just goes to show you, that even with a fresh face at the head of the Fiberals, nothing can get rid of the rotting stench left behind by Gordo on his way to the High Commissioners Job in London England. Christy, these are serious times for serious people. And your 15 minutes is just about up.

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