Stick men, straw men debate HST

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon unveils the $5 million advertising campaign that begins this month.

VICTORIA – By now you’ve probably seen part of the B.C. government’s “stick man” ad campaign to raise awareness of the harmonized sales tax.

Stick men, or rather stick persons, sort out conflicting claims about the tax by going to the B.C. government’s website  to get an accurate summary of what is and isn’t costing them more.

Later versions will no doubt feature stick persons checking their mail for brochures offering arguments for and against the HST, and of course, those all-important mail-in ballots that will arrive in June.

This is an urgent pre-requisite to an informed vote. Anyone who listens in to a telephone town hall or phone-in show, or gets reader feedback such as I receive, knows that the basic facts are still widely misunderstood.

So what does the NDP opposition focus on? The ads cost $5 million, grumbles NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston. Add that to town halls and mailers and the referendum funding boils down to $7 million for pro-HST and a mere $250,000 for the FightHST effort.

This is a classic “straw man” argument, where one sets up a false premise and then knocks it down. The ads do not advocate, they merely inform.

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson propped up the NDP’s oldest scarecrow, that big “Liberal donor corporations” are the main beneficiaries of the HST. This is a vital point for rural B.C., which depends on resource industries with huge machinery investments, and he has it exactly wrong.

In fact the entire ‘big business benefits most from HST’ narrative is false.

Vancouver tax lawyer David Robertson points out that this is one of the “myths and misrepresentations” propagated by Bill Vander Zalm, who has effectively set NDP tax policy since their limping retreat on the carbon tax.

In 24 pages, Robertson has written the clearest analysis I’ve seen so far, including a thorough demolition of Vander Zalm’s crude scare campaign known as FightHST, which has singled out banks and large resource companies.

Robertson notes that banks are actually worse off.

“…unlike most businesses, banks, financial institutions and insurance companies cannot recover GST/HST they pay on expenses,” he writes. They actually pay more under HST than they did under the old provincial sales tax (PST).

As for FightHST’s other specified villains, “large corporations” and “large resource companies,” their machinery and production equipment were long ago exempted from sales tax. No change there.

“What the PST legislation did not contain were PST exemptions aimed specifically at small, independent businesses,” Robertson writes.

“So construction workers like welders, plumbers, electricians and other tradespersons had to pay an additional seven per cent PST on their work trucks, tools and equipment that they used to earn a living; retailers and corner store operators had to pay an additional seven per cent on their shelving, refrigerators and cash registers; accountants and other professionals had to pay PST on their office furniture, computers and software; truckers had to pay an additional seven per cent PST on their truck tractors and trailers …” and so forth.

This is what the HST fixes.

Obviously, Big Labour doesn’t like all these independent contractors. Therefore the NDP must also “fight” HST.

I’ve mentioned before that the NDP-Vander Zalm axis of nonsense wants to deprive the poor of a modest tax shift in their favour, paid for by voluntary purchases of more affluent consumers.

I’ve talked about the trend towards self-employment and small business as the Canadian economy adapts in a fast-changing world. You may not like that trend, and you may wish that everyone could have a union job with an employer-subsidized pension.

That’s not what is happening today.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

twitter.com/tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Port Hardy council hesitant to formalize question period in agendas, refers it to committee

In first act as new council, representatives were uncertain about formalizing question periods.

Gas prices on Vancouver Island to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Mt. Waddington’s Salvation Army releases eye-opening statistics report for 2017

Shelter overnight stays saw a 431 per cent increase since 2014.

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh weighs in on Vancouver Island fishing ban

Singh and MacGregor say improving salmon abundance is important

Feds respond to sexual assault investigation at B.C. naval base

Report of Oct. 5 sexual assault on Vancouver Island base taken over by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

EU divorce deal in peril after two UK Cabinet ministers quit

Negotiators from Britain and the European Union have struck a proposed divorce deal that will be presented to politicians on both sides for approval, officials in London and Brussels said Tuesday.

Northern California fire death toll at 56; 130 missing

Many of the missing are elderly and from Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 to the north of Paradise.

Canfor to buy 70 per cent stake in Swedish Vida Group for $580 million

The privately held company has nine sawmills in southern Sweden with an annual production capacity of 1.1 billion board feet.

Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Mixing business and family: Trudeau turns to Singapore ancestors to widen trade

Trudeau’s ancestor, Esther Bernard, born Farquhar (1796-1838) was the daughter of Major-General William Farquhar (1774-1839), the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore.

Most Read