HST may be better than former tax system

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To the Editor

Writing to newspapers is not something that I’ve made a habit of during my life either in U.K., Ireland or here in B.C. However, the upcoming referendum on the HST is giving me many concerns as it will affect our lives here for many years to come. First of all, to set the record, I have no political affiliations to any party and until my citizenship application goes through I am not able to vote in any case.

I recently received the HST referendum voters guide in the mail and, although I am unable to vote, I have done a reasonable amount of “homework” on the subject of the HST, having lived with value-added tax in both of the other countries in which I have lived. The voters guide seems to be full of cherry picked statistics, and in some cases the full story has not been presented. For instance, it states the provinces with the highest unemployment all have HST, implying that this is the cause. However, it fails to state that another province, P.E.I., actually has the highest unemployment rate yet does not have the HST. There are several other discrepancies in this document in a similar vein where only part of a topic is stated.

I have come across an article by a Jonathan R. Kesselman that explains things better. I would urge you to at least give it a read. The choice of what to believe will be yours. The article can be found at hstjobs.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Kesselman_Report_-May2011.pdf.

My personal, maybe irrelevant, views are as follows. I am surprised that there is a referendum being held on such an important subject that most of us, if we’re honest, just do not fully understand. Taxation and investment are the realm of accountants and their like, not us “ordinary Joes”. The fact that a June 9 poll showed that 20 per cent of the people polled did not understand the question must be cause for concern. Tax policies are set by the elected government of the day, and if their policies become unpalatable then the election day ballot box is the time and place to change this.

Overall, I think that B.C. will be better served by using HST and that to go back to the old system would be a mistake on many different levels. The HST is slated to go down, with federal approval now granted, to 10 per cent, making it cheaper for many of the goods we buy. I know the 10 per cent rate is a government promise but that is what politicians do, and we vote for who we do because of their promises at election time. If you were a big investor would you invest in a province that couldn’t make up its mind on a taxation system?

So, to sum up, I think the BC Liberals made a huge mistake in the way the HST was introduced and they probably deserve all the flak they have received, the BC NDP have done a great job in getting the government to adjust the tax, and as official Opposition, should continue with this aim. I also think they should stop at that.

But most of all, please ensure that you have read as much as you can regarding the HST and that you understand it as well as possible. Vote on the HST referendum and not for views of the political party of your choice.

Ray Smith