Stick men, straw men debate HST

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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Commercial tenants at the Williams Lake Regional Airport have been granted an additional six-month rent reprieve. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Continuing rent relief for Williams Lake Airport tenants considered

City council discussed the option during a committee of the whole meeting

The Grade 2 class of 150 Mile House Elementary attended Cariboo Memorial Hospital with teacher Kirsty Bowers to deliver “kindness” bags full of small gifts to housekeeping staff. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
150 Mile House students deliver gift bags showing appreciation for hospital staff

Students begin Monday morning with a bus trip to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read