Out of Harmony

We are having a referendum in BC on a controversial sales tax imposed by the provincial government last year. According to the government web site, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) “will keep B.C. competitive – helping to create jobs and attract investment.” They have a list of “facts” – purported advantages to keeping the HST. Originally at 12%, the government is bowing to public pressure and will reduce the tax to 10% if we keep it. I’m not going to go into a big long discussion about the previous tax structure (federal Goods and Services Tax or GST and Provincial Sales Tax or PST), as most people who read this will probably be from BC and be familiar with the tax system. Just want to let you know why I’m voting YES to extinguish the HST. Yes, those Liberals have given the question some tricky wording. You must vote YES if you want it to go and NO if you want it to stay. Go figure.

I have my own small communications business. Until 2008, my contracts were mainly with non-profits. When the bottom fell out of the economy, the funding in that world dried up overnight. The provincial government, for one, cut critical gaming funding that many of the non-profits relied on at that time. I found myself out of work, scrambling to make a living. Previously, I didn’t have to charge PST (7%), only GST (5%). But when the HST came in, there were a lot of new goods and services added to the new tax list. So now, with the HST, I have to charge my clients 12% instead of 5%. That is a big add on, especially for non-profits and can be a deterrent for them.

I find I’m eating out a lot less too, I’ve really noticed the added seven percent at restaurants and coffee shops. The hundred dollar or so rebate we are promised on the HST is not nearly enough in compensation in my mind. So far, the HST has made my life more expensive, harder to make a living and I’m spending less at local businesses, how is that better for BC? Strikes a bad note for me.

And speaking of strikes, you may not have received your referendum packet yet, due to the recent postal strike. But when I called Elections BC yesterday, they said they’re in the mail now, on their way to all registered voters. Until July 22, you can also request a package by calling them at 1-800-661-8683. The mail in ballots (a pre-paid envelope will be provided) are due by August 5th.



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