As a longtime resident of British Columbia and someone who wants a stable, prosperous future for our families, I encourage British Columbia voters to take the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) referendum seriously and to make an informed decision.
It is not often a major change in the way we are being taxed can be done, and so this is a very important decision for our province.
No one really likes paying taxes, but we all know the services being provided by government must be paid for.
I will agree that moving to the HST was not handled well by the government, but in spite of this, I don’t think it makes sense to reject the HST because you are mad at the government.
I’ve studied the HST and can see that having two different retail taxes complete with two separate bureaucracies, not to mention double the paperwork for businesses large and small, is definitely not an efficient way to collect taxes.
We can argue and discuss the changes that have come with the HST, with some things being taxed more, and others less, but in the end, there is not all that much difference in the total taxes we are paying, and for sure when the HST goes down to 10 per cent in two years time, we will be paying less. In the meantime, HST tax credits and transitional payments will ease the burden on low-income families.
The folks who are trying to kill the HST seem to delight in fear mongering and twisting the facts, and considering the impact of the HST depends on each individual’s spending pattern and their income, it is easy to get confused.
We also need to recognize that some costs that affect us all have risen dramatically, especially those related to increased energy costs. But this has nothing to do with the HST; in fact gas prices and home fuel prices do not include the provincial portion of the HST.
What I have found in looking into the HST is progressive economists, and public-policy experts all agree the HST is a much better tax system than the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) plus Goods and Services Tax (GST) with all their administrative burdens.
I am a firm believer Canada needs less government bureaucracy and implementing the HST has been an opportunity to operate our retail taxes more efficiently. We would be crazy to go back to the old system, especially as the $1.6 billion the federal government provided to assist with transition costs would need to be paid back.
There is no doubt reverting to the old system will definitely impact the ability of the B.C. Liberal government to deliver the services we need.
As I said in the beginning, I want to live in a province that can provide a stable and prosperous future for my children and grandchildren. From everything I have read, the HST will help our businesses be competitive, not only with other Canadian provinces, but in trading with the world.
I urge you to vote to keep the HST, and this means when you fill out your ballot, you must vote “no”. Voting “yes” means the HST will be extinguished and we will go back to the old, inefficient PST plus GST system.
Nancy Greene Raine is a Conservative senator.