Better ways than HST to spread the wealth

Re: NDP’s problems go deeper (B.C. Views, Jan. 25)

Tom Fletcher says the HST is the cure for inequality in British Columbia. But few will agree with such a claim, given that the HST is a $1.9 billion tax shift on to the backs of consumers. According to Statistics Canada, the average household will pay $521 more under the HST.

A recent editorial from the international magazine The Economist (The Rich and the Rest, Jan. 22, 2011) – hardly a bastion of left-wing thought – makes the compelling case that the best way to combat inequality and increase mobility is by investing government resources in raising the standard of living for the middle and lower classes, particularly through education. As the editorial states, “Oddly, the urgency of these kinds of reforms is greatest in rich countries, where prospects for the less-skilled are stagnant or falling.”

The B.C. Liberal record for helping low and middle income earners is abysmal. Middle income families found that between 2001 and 2009, B.C. had the lowest growth in average hourly wages and the second-lowest growth in weekly wages in Canada. Since 2001 the minimum wage has been stagnant at $8 per hour — the lowest in Canada – and job growth has been much slower. In fact, B.C. had the worst job loss record in the country last month, losing 22,000 jobs in December.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals have made low and middle income earners pay more in hydro rates, Medical Services Plan premiums and countless other expenses. It’s no wonder that in the past 10 years fewer Canadians moved to British Columbia than in the decade before.

If the B.C. Liberals really want to “combat inequality and increase mobility” then they’ll stop wasting millions of dollars trying to convince British Columbians the HST is a good thing. Instead, they should raise the minimum wage, invest properly in education and stimulate job growth in a green economy.

Bruce Ralston

New Democrat Opposition Finance Critic

Surrey

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