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General News · 16th April 2010
Claire Trevena
The Legislature started sitting again this week, after a short break for Easter, and the debate on the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) started in earnest.

Apart from question period and the short periods for private members’ time during the week, the whole session was set aside to debate Bill 9, which will eliminate the PST and pave the way for the HST. And we expect the same for the coming weeks, although the government says it wants the bill passed by the end of April.

The BC Liberal government justifications for introducing the tax are being repeated by every government MLA and none of them sound plausible. They are saying that this is the only way the BC economy can be saved, although after nearly 10 years in government you would have thought they would have discovered this so called miracle sooner. They are also trying to claim that the HST is a fair tax because the richer you are the more likely you are to spend and so the more tax you will inevitably pay. This is particularly absurd as the HST is a flat tax: it puts 7 percent on top of the cost of many items which have previously been exempt from tax – from a cup of coffee in a coffee shop through to bicycles through to funerals. That means everyone pays 7 percent more, whether you are earning $30,000 or $130,000.

The real way to redistribute the wealth of individuals is not through a flat tax, but through progressive taxation. And taxation – whether corporate taxes or income tax – is the way our society pays for the fundamentals: for health care, for roads, for education. We need taxes but we need fair taxes.

When I spoke in the Legislature on the bill I followed the Minister of Forests who claimed that this tax would revitalise the forest industry. The BC Liberals have watched the spiralling death of our forest sector and could have acted much sooner if they really wanted to rebuild what has always been a foundation of our economy. We’ve seen the big companies that control our crown lands send the money they have made from the softwood deal to their shareholders and their American mills rather than being reinvested here in BC; there is every expectation that any savings they make through the HST will also go to their shareholders and their operations in the US rather than investing in communities such as Campbell River or Port Hardy where there is a real need.

The BC Liberals also were unable to explain their u-turn from the election platform of just one year ago, when they said there would be no HST, to the announcement of its introduction just six weeks after they were re-elected.

People are going to suffer because of this tax and people have every right to be angry about it because of the duplicitous way in which it was introduced.

We continued with the debate through question period when we challenged the introduction of the HST on a host of different items. We also used question period to talk about some of the apparent insider deals where donors to the BC Liberals are awarded contracts: whether for tourism or for private industrial power on our inlets.

The line by line budget estimate debate is also going on in Victoria. I was able to ask a couple of questions during the estimates of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, about plans for the http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/39th2nd/D00414y.htm[second stage housing for Campbell River] and about the amounts paid to people who are on disability.

I also spoke about the 100th anniversary of the start of the school system in Campbell River. Ironically student numbers were as big an issue in 1910 as in 2010 – the five students at the Willows Hotel Annex were too few to keep the school open, but seven were enough. I congratulate the School District, parents, teachers, teaching assistants, principals, trustees and students for keeping SD72 a vibrant place where a great education is possible.

I will be in Campbell River Friday and in the constituency through the weekend before heading back to Victoria Monday where we shall resume the debate on the HST and hopefully persuade seven backbench Liberals to reflect the desire of their constituents and vote against the HST.

I can always be reached through the community office in Campbell River at 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy at 250 902 0325, or by email at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.