The provincial government is holding a referendum on the HST in September 2011, although Christy Clark has indicated she would prefer an earlier vote in June. Research conducted for the provincial HST Information Office indicates that many British Columbians are unclear about what the HST applies to and how the tax will benefit BC’s economy – and their own interests – in the long run.
For example, some people think we are paying HST on food staples. But this isn’t true. Taxes on basic groceries haven’t changed – they weren’t taxed under the previous system and they aren’t taxed now.
In fact, many people may not realize that the taxes on most of the goods they purchase haven’t changed. We paid a combined tax of 12 percent on everything from dish soap and DVDs to clothing and major appliances, and we still pay that under the HST. The only difference is that the HST appears alone on our receipts.
Luckily, information about how the HST has affected British Columbians since its July 1, 2010, implementation date is beginning to roll in. Jonathan Kesselman, Canada Research Chair in Public Finance at Simon Fraser University, published a paper in February 2011 that analyses available data on the HST and presents a figure that should reassure many: the HST resulted in just a 0.6 of one percent increase in overall consumer prices in BC. As Professor Kesselman calculates, that translates to about one additional dollar for every $165 spent by the average consumer.
Statistics like that should help British Columbians decide how to vote in the HST Referendum. But more support is coming. We’ve also got an independent panel – government appointed, but made up of non-partisan experts – working now to analyse and identify all the pros and cons of keeping the HST or returning to the old PST/GST system, including what the financial implications are for unwinding the HST.
Most British Columbians want these facts. As British Columbians, we all benefit when BC’s economy is strong and growing.
It’s not an exaggeration to call this referendum one of the most important choices that British Columbians of this generation can make, so we better make the right one. Non-government economists who have already weighed into the HST debate have projected that the HST could generate up to $14 billion in new investments and well over 100,000 jobs in B.C. over the next 10 years. No other single decision that we can make can touch those figures for B.C.
But, make no mistake: this decision will also affect all of us personally and individually.
Professor Kesselman’s paper is available at the Business Council of B.C. website, www.bcbc.com. The independent panel’s report will be publicly available in April. If you haven’t made up your own mind about the HST, take time to consider all the facts.
President & CEO
BC Trucking Assoc.