Editor, The Times:
During the lead up to the 2009 provincial election, instead of campaigning on their plan to introduce the HST, the Liberal government and their MLA’s denied they were considering it. But with the ballots barely counted, the Liberals announced they would proceed with the largest and most unfair tax shift in the province’s history.
Incensed at being lied to and having their taxes increased to fund tax cuts for corporations, the people of British Columbia rebelled.
When the dust settled, the people won Round One. A grassroots movement spread across the province, forcing a referendum on the issue.
The people won Round Two in November 2010, when Gordon Campbell was forced to resign.
Today a desperate Liberal party led by newly elected Premier Clark is scrambling to win Round Three by spending millions of taxpayer dollars to convince British Columbians the HST is good for them.
Let’s be clear, the HST can’t be fixed.
The changes made by Premier Clark are a cynical attempt to buy British Columbians with their own money and, more importantly, dropping the tax by two points will cause a major revenue crisis leading to more cutbacks of schools, hospitals and government services.
Ms. Clark knows this is true — she said it herself.
“We aren’t going to be talking about trying to reduce it by a point or two before the referendum. I think people will see that as buying them with their own money,” Clark stated on March 21, 2011. “We’re going to have a $1.6 billion bigger deficit or we’re going to have $1.6 billion fewer heart operations, special-needs teachers, school facilities, hospital emergency rooms.” She is right on both counts. And she did it anyway. But the cost to citizens of the HST goes beyond creating bigger deficits or extreme cuts to public services.
This tax is fundamentally flawed because it takes billions of dollars from working families and gives those dollars to B.C.’s largest corporations.
Despite the convoluted question on the referendum the real choice is between the HST and the PST.
If British Columbians vote YES to reject the HST and re-introduce the PST, the government will receive an estimated $6.4 billion from the PST in 2014/15 to pay for public services. Based on historical data, corporations will pay about $2.6 billion and citizens will pay $3.8 billion. Corporations and citizens share the responsibility and the tax will not apply to hundreds of essential purchases.
If British Columbians vote NO to keep the HST the government will receive in 2014/15 about $5.3 billion from the tax paid entirely by British Columbians and their families. Not only will this create a huge shortfall in revenue (as predicted by the Premier) but corporations will pay virtually nothing. This is unfair.
Premier Clarks’ HST will still see British Columbians pay $1.4 billion more in taxes in 2014/15 but the provincial budget will be more than $1 billion short to pay for public services. Citizens pay more money and get fewer services. This makes no sense.
Yes, Clark announced a “temporary” increase in corporate taxes from 10 percent to 12 percent, but that will generate only a small portion of what the HST will save them. And don’t forget, since the Liberals took power, the tax on corporate profits was cut from 16.5 percent to 10 percent. The result has been a windfall of nearly $8.5 billion since 2001. Corporate profits also increased 60 percent during the same period.
Did all those corporate tax cuts create jobs? Unfortunately, no. Corporations took the money and ran – closing mills and factories at a record pace, leaving us with 28,000 fewer manufacturing jobs today than at the beginning of the Liberal regime.
British Columbians are fair people who work hard and don’t mind paying taxes for important services. But they want everybody to pay their fair share. The HST does the opposite. It dumps all the responsibility on families, lets corporations off the hook and forces government to cut back services.
Don’t be fooled by the Liberals or the upside down question, vote YES to scrap the HST, vote YES to the PST, vote YES for fair taxes and vote YES to properly fund public services for all British Columbians.
Jim Sinclair, president
B.C. Federation of Labour