Monday, April 26, 2010

Duck, it's the HST!

Bottomless pockets across the great province of British Columbia are watching with an admirable amount of trepidation as the latest evolution of our provinces sales-tax looms. The ever popular L.O.G. (Liberal Occupying Government) in Victoria has announced their intent to have this thing in place by the middle of this year (2010). The so-called Harmonized Sales Tax (snakely shortened to the HST) is described as a harmonized tax between the provincial sales tax of 7-percent and the federal sales tax of 5-percent (the mathematically astute will notice the this adds up to 12-percent. Well done people and now you can smoke 'em if you've got 'em). Of course there are those in favour of this and there are those who want nothing to do with it. Those in favour of the HST say it will create jobs, lower prices, and cure all of your major diseases and if it does not pass then the entire province will dry up to a Tatooine-like aridity and everyone's dog will run away. Those against the HST say it will cost jobs, raise out-of-pocket costs, cause an infestation of boil-covered frogs, and eventually the only reason anybody will have children is so that they will have something to eat. Swift! Now both are valid views, but it is a little bit confusing. What is a poor boy to do?

Being as I am a 'benefit-of-the-doubt' kind of guy I motored off to the pro-HST government web-site at http://hst.blog.goc.bc.ca/ which I found to be very promising. Lots of nice pictures of good-looking people smiling and having a good time spending money and paying the HST. Apparently prices will drop as "hidden" taxes are removed and business will pass on the massive savings to the paying public. Okay, I added in the word "massive" myself, but only because I got all excited there. But then I hit a bump in the road. The site is curiously short on specifics as to just how the prices will drop. I came across the following "Car Service Repair Example" graphic:


My first reaction was, "Oh, ho! Let's examine this carefully!" and my second reaction was, "WTF is this BS?" I mean, what are they trying to pull here? I'm not talking about how the graphic is miss-labeled. I suspect that is merely some graphic designer's decision to 'maintain the integrity of the balance of the work' by leaving "GST" off the car on the right. Reading the graph suggests that under the current system of provincial taxation the car-repair business passes all the PST costs on all their overhead on to the trusting consumer. The graph points out that this will not happen with the HST, but it does not explain why this will not happen. Hmmm... Thinking-cap time. I think it won't happen because... Well, why won't it happen? The business is still paying all those overhead cost taxes, only now it will be the HST rather than the PST and as the cost is still there then why wouldn't the business continue to pass them on to the consumer?

Okay, verdict one; this graph is a lie. And even worse, it's a sloppy lie. A quick jaunt around the rest of the site is not reassuring. There are lots of promises that the costs will not rise and everybody will be spending less, thus everybody will have more spending money in their pockets. Well that sounds pretty darn good, but if it is so good then why are lower income folks getting a rebate on the HST? If it is so great then will they not already have more money left after shopping or whatever? Plus, and I know this is off topic, but if the provincial Liberals have all of a sudden discovered a compassion for the working poor then why not raise the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10 per hour?

A little further searching and I found an article by legislative reporter Tom Fletcher (http://www.bclocalnews.com/opinion/91607299.html) where he takes to task those who are against the HST, comparing them to those who were against the GST back in 1991. Toms' gonch are twisted pretty tight is what I figure. In his humble opinion those who were against the GST 'back in the day' were consumed by an "unfocused rage" and unable to understand the benefits of the GST which "replaced a 14-per-cent manufacturers sales tax that was imposed on our own industries, but not on imports" with a 7-percent tax paid by consumers. I think that Tom's implication is that prices on domestically manufactured goods would drop by 14-percent and the consumer would pay a 7-percent tax, with a net saving of 7-percent and Canadians were too dumb to understand how good this was.

It's a great theory, undone by the fact that everyday items stayed the same price with a shiny new tax of 7-percent on top of it. "Then," as Tom puts it, "we stood around in our dirt glazed lumberjack shirts, Molson stubbies in hand, and wondered why were (sic) still hewing wood and drawing water for the world." This sentence either says much about Tom's personal hygiene or it lost a great deal of meaning in translation from the original gibberish. I don't know for sure what he is trying to say but I think it may be that he thinks the GST may have been a good idea and that people ought to settle down and quit whining about the HST. Well Tom seems to like the L.O.G. in Victoria and at the end of his article he mentions that the HST is necessary to raise money because of the aging baby-boomer population and those freeloaders have to be supported somehow. Right on, so Tom is saying that the HST is essentially a new higher tax. My question is this: the government site doesn't mention this and goes to a lot of trouble to explain that this will actually lowering people's cost of living by getting rid of "hidden taxes". So which is it?

The thing is, if the government is going to change the sales tax system then they should be honest and forthright about why they are doing it. They are raising taxes for future expenses? Then say so. I'm not one of those people who think that everybody wants a free ride with no taxes. I believe that most people have no problem paying their fair share and it is unfortunate the the government doesn't seem to share that belief. Their web-site appears to be saying, "It's good because it's good" and that is as deep as it gets. And that is why I will be signing a petition against the HST. Tom might believe that I would do that because I am afraid of something that I don't understand but it is actually more along the lines of I don't like being lied to or treated like an idiot. It is also unfortunate that in his effort to convince people to not sign a petition Tom resorted to the same sorts of arguments as right-wingnut loud-mouths do south of the border. Smarmy comments and slippery insults are not going to convince me to change my mind and if you are trying to teach me a lesson by your clever little rantings, the lesson I learned is probably not the one you were trying to teach. Tough luck, Tom.

Anyway... Humouroceros

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