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General News · 3rd April 2010
Claire Trevena
Unfortunately it is no April Fools’ joke: the bill that will lead to HST is in the Legislature, hydro bills are going up, gas bills are going up, ferry fares are up, it will cost more to camp in Provincial Parks and other fees are going up too.

After waiting for the HST legislation since February, the BC Liberal government finally brought it in this week, but did not open debate on it until our last day in the Legislature before the Easter break. The bill itself does not actually introduce the HST – that’s the responsibility of the Federal government. This bill, Bill 9, ends the PST.

Every bill introduced to the Legislature has a title. Bill 9 is called the “Consumption Tax Rebate and Transition Act”. Once more the BC Liberal government is trying to obfuscate through language, hoping the electorate believes that everything is benign. As everyone knows, the HST is a consumption tax, but, unlike the PST, it will offer few exemptions when it is introduced. Instead it will increase the cost on everything from eating in restaurants to buying homes, newspapers to haircuts, gym fees to funerals.

The government has been suggesting that voting against Bill 9, as the NDP has said it will, would be voting for double taxation: keeping the PST as well as having the HST. That of course is ludicrous; we know that no government, not even the insensitive BC Liberals, would have both taxes. So this bill to end the PST has to be defeated to stop the HST being introduced.

The bill highlights one of the many problems of the HST: not only is it a regressive, flat tax, hitting services and products previously exempt from the PST but it is also takes control out of Victoria and hands it to Ottawa. The HST is managed by the Federal government and it has already passed the bill which will allow for the HST. So the BC Liberals have to get rid of the PST so their first cousins, the Federal Conservatives can force the HST on us.

The hypocrisy is appalling: first, during the election campaign, the BC Liberals made no mention of their plan to introduce the HST. Then when they blindsided the people of BC by announcing it after the election, they claim it is the best thing to revive the economy. Now the party line has changed again and Campbell and his cabinet are trying to sell the HST by claiming it is needed to pay for health care. It would be good for the Ministers who dream up these scenarios to come to the North Island and see what our economy really needs: most people would say it needs jobs and it needs new approaches economic development. What the North Island does not need is a new flat tax.

The NDP has already started our opposition to the bill in the Legislature. When a bill is introduced it usually automatically passes its first reading but when this HST bill was introduced, we made our strong opposition clear by breaking with tradition and calling a recorded vote against it. At that point no Liberal MLA joined us, but we are still working to convince seven government backbenchers to respect the wishes of their constituents and vote against the bill.

The Campbell government has said that it must be passed by May 1 to meet Ottawa’s requirements. That means it will be a busy April and it is unlikely any other piece of Legislation will be brought before the House until we have finished dealing with the HST.
would hope that this debate about HST will generate a debate about tax policy and the way governments can raise revenue. It should include an examination of some of the taxes which are supposed to deter people from consumption – like the carbon tax or tax on junk food – as well as tax whether corporations, especially oil and gas companies, deserve any tax breaks.

We also need to have a healthy debate about progressive taxation and a citizen’s responsibility to contribute to the services and infrastructure on which our society depends.

Meanwhile as I mentioned earlier, we are seeing increasing costs, as of today, for many necessities: hydro and gas bills, transit fares and ferry fares all went up on April 1. I spoke about the increase in ferry fares on the CBC on Thursday morning: the decision to raise fares is nothing more than gouging. For the first time cyclists have to pay – which begs the question of whether parents with strollers or seniors with carts are also going to be charged soon. And there’s a 153% hike for taking anything longer than 20 ft on the ferry: that means RVs, trailers, and trucks.

That will undoubtedly hit businesses, tourists and island residents. It seems like the BC Ferry Corp. is in partnership with the BC Liberals in an effort to depopulate our island communities by raising the costs of living, undercutting local businesses and chopping resources.
And while the cost of living rises across the board, BC now holds the dubious record of having the lowest minimum wage in the country.

Ontario (which has also brought in the HST) raised its minimum wage this week, leaving BC trailing at a appalling $8 an hour (and the $6 training wage is still on the books). Once again the Labour Minister said he has no plans to fix this inequity.

The Legislature isn’t sitting next week, which means I’ll be out around the constituency and hope to meet many people and hear your views on the HST and any other issues that are of concern. I have community meetings planned in Tahsis and Gold River on Tuesday and Wednesday and will be in the Campbell River office Thursday and on the islands on Friday and Saturday before returning to Victoria on Sunday, to add my voice, and your concerns, to the debate.

I hope that everyone has a good break over the Easter weekend. I can always be contacted through the office in Campbell River at 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy at 250 902 0325, or by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.