The hurt has begun: BC consumers are now being hit with a higher sales tax (HST) almost every where they turn. And as a result some of those who can hardly afford it, like food servers, are already taking the hit.
A friend of mine told me the following story: each morning he has coffee and toast at a neighbourhood restaurant; the cost, pre-HST, was about $3.75 so he would leave $5, including the tip. Post HST, the bill is now $3.94 and he still leaves $5. So the server takes the hit, because let’s face it, most people are not going to adjust and now leave $5.10. Multiple that by tens of thousands of customers for thousands of servers in B.C., on more than just toast and coffee and you can see who the real victims of the HST tax shift will be: some of those who can least afford it.
And yet, too many media reporters, editorialists, commentators and pundits are still trying hard to prove the “people” were wrong in opposing the HST and throwing out smelly red herrings that demean themselves and their profession.
First, notice how many are now asking “Well, where are we going to get the additional money we need for education, health etc?”
This is a whale of a red herring in any discussion the HST. The premier, the finance minister, all their economists, the corporate mouthpieces have always said the HST is “revenue neutral”. It is a tax shift from business (mostly BIG business) to the consumer … not a new or extra tax in any way …at least that’s what the premier and the government said. And they wouldn’t lie to us, would they?
So just posing the question of where would we now get the extra money we may need, in the context of any stop-the-HST discussion, is disingenuous and downright dishonest.
Where were those questions from the media commentators and pundits when the BC Liberals lowered personal income taxes and corporate taxes to what the government boasts are about the lowest in the country? Seems to me that because THEY and their employers were benefitting so much, those questions about “where will we get the $$$ we need?” were virtually ignored. The spiel then was how lower taxes would generate more spending and thus help inprove the economy and promote job growth… and thus, produce higher provincial revenues.
If their supposition is that we need more revenue for growing education and health costs is correct, how come none of them are proposing or even asking why shouldn’t big business in B.C. or the highest income earners give back some of their earler tax reductions that have them now paying, according to the governnment itself, among the lowest taxes in Canada?
I guess that question would hit too close to home.
A second red herring the government’s “voices” keep raising: if we get rid of the HST, we’ll have to pay back the $1.6 Billion the federal government gave BC to go along with the program.
That argument suggests the $1.6 Billion is a windfall … a gift … a wonderful reward. Give me a break! Why would Ottawa give B.C. that money? Because it’s merely a ONE-TIME CASH ADVANCE ; under the HST, BC consumers will be “paying back” millions of dollars each year in extra revenues on purchases not formerly covered. And we will keep paying FOREVER: if BC really needed a one-time cash advance so badly, we may in fact have gotten a better deal from the Mafia instead of Ottawa!.
And then there’s the other myth now being promulgated by the provincial government and eagerly supported and promoted by their media puppets: without the HST break for business, BC will lose thousands of jobs and investment to other provinces. The sky will fall!
That’s simply a crock: the government, remember, has boasted for years that BC business already enjoys some of the lowest corporate taxes in the country. Not to mention the lowest minimum wage as well! So without HST break, all that will disappear?
The biggest point most media fail to consider … or forget to mention: BC’s economy is VERY largely a resource economy. Does anybody really believe that without still more EXTRA breaks given their suppliers by the HST, China, the U.S. and other foreign countries will stop buying our oil, natural gas, mining resources or even our lumber as their economies recover and the need for our resource riches skyrockets again?
Our media needs to get real on this issue … and stop being just a mouthpiece for the Liberals, the Chamber of Commerce and the world’s largest global resource corporations … out looking for even more concessions. And at the cost of those who already have so much less than they?
Ontario brought in the HST to protect its still huge manufacturing base, not heavy resources, which they know will only sell well when the U.S. and world economy is in full swing again. In addition, Ontario simply won’t be able to supply Asia with many of the BC natutral resources they are hungry for … and the cost of moving those resources from Ontario, instead of BC , to China or other parts of Asia, would far outweigh any HST benefit.
True, Australia and Russia are also competitors for resource sales … but do you really believe China’s purchases to satiate its burgeoning economy’s hunger for stable, efficient and reliable high-quality resource supply hinges on their suppliers in BC getting an EXTRA HST tax break? LOL!
And the final red herring: those who will really be hit by the HST will be getting a rebate.
Officially, that’s true, but ONLY if you earn $20,000 a year or less as an individual or $25,000 as a family. The rebate is $230 a YEAR for each individual. I’d bet not too many media types (or corporate executives) are earning less than $20,000 a year. Do they really believe at that salary level, trying to pay for rent, food, transit, clothing, toiletries and maybe a movie ticket once a month … a tax rebate of 63 cents a day will cover it all?
And what’s REALLY scary, and should be questionned quite hard, is that the government says more than a million British Columbians (a quarter of our population) will qualify for this poverty level relief!!!!! That deserves not only a question …but a five-part series!
And yet, the pundits seem to feel anyone earning over $20,000 a YEAR should be willing to pay even MORE taxes through the the HST to help out the biggest resource industry corporations, that even pre-HST, measured profits in the hundreds of millions and whose executives already enjoy the good life of million-dollar Whistler second-homes, multiple luxury family cars and for some, even yachts that rival Jimmie’s!. And a restaurant server should help subsidize them even more ? It is absolutely ludicrous.
Media types should stop taking sides while they’re on the job … soaking up and promoting the BIG BUSINESS scam for yet another tax break on the backs of small business, working people.
Or register as lobbyists for the government.
This column originally appeared in Mr. Oberfeld's blog, Keeping It Real. Reprinted with permission.