It’s time to decide fate of HST

The HST vote is on us, and it's time to make a decision.

Sometime this week, most Langley households should receive their HST referendum ballots. For those who haven’t received one by the end of the day Wednesday (July 6), call 1-800-661-8683 to request one.

Many people have asked me about the HST in recent weeks. It’s a popular topic of discussion, and it’s something that almost everyone has a strong opinion on.

While not pretending to be an expert on the tax, I have paid close attention to the ongoing discussion and debate since the tax was first announced on July 23, 2009 by then-finance minister Colin Hansen. I have also read the independent panel report on the HST — which is well worth reading, I might add (it’s available at http://www.hstinbc.ca/making_your_choice/independent_panel/). I’ve also closely read the flyer sent out by the provincial government about the HST referendum process.

In some ways, my opinion of the HST hasn’t changed at all since it was first announced. I was surprised then, because the BC Liberals had consistently said they wouldn’t bring in the HST, for the simple reason that the province would have almost no control over what items were taxable and which ones were not.

Hansen told me on July 23, 2009 that the government’s opinion changed, because the federal government was giving the B.C. government more flexibility in what it could exempt. The B.C. government chose to exempt fuel, for example.

On the day of the announcement, I wasn’t happy about the HST being applied to new homes over $450,000, because I believe that people buying new homes to live in pay far too much tax already, and housing prices are too high to begin with. They also pay the pproperty transfer tax (brought in when Bill Vander Zalm was premier). It brings in a huge amount of revenue to the government, and it hasn’t been adjusted downwards.

Hansen eventually boosted the threshold price for new homes to be HST-neutral to $525,000, but HST shouldn’t apply to any new, owner-occupied homes. I have no problem with it being applied to all new homes purchased for investment or recreational use.

The HST is an efficient tax. There is one tax collector instead of two. Input credits mean that it is the end buyer who pays tax — not anyone else. This is the best way to operate a sales tax system, far better than the old PST.

Tax credits for low income people are a good way to ease some of the regressive nature of this sales tax, but I believe the income levels at which people qualify for the credits are far too low. The HST hurts working people with incomes below $50,000 the hardest — only a few of these people get HST rebates.

Based on how it has handled the HST from day one, the BC Liberal government does not deserve re-election. Some people are voting against the HST because of the government. It is far better to vote against the government in the next election (which may come this fall) because of the HST.

I do believe the pledge to reduce the HST to 10 per cent by July 1, 2014 will be fulfilled by the BC Liberals, or by the NDP if they win the next election (if the HST gets the go-ahead). Ten per cent is far better than 12 per cent.

I urge all eligible voters, even those who never vote provincially, to cast a vote in the HST referendum. Ballots are due back by Aug. 5, and can be mailed or delivered to an Elections BC collection centre at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

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