At first I was ambivalent about the HST. I didn’t know exactly what it was other than a combination of the GST and PST. I bought my house before the summer to avoid it. I thought the HST petition would be “fun”, that it would be nice to get a break from the Liberal party’s hegemony. There is something about taxes that inspires populist revolt. We feel the Boston tea party and the fall of the Bastille in our hearts whenever a politician dares to intimate that the government be somehow paid for the services it provides.It’s beginning to look like the HST petition was more of a referendum against our one-party legislature and Bill Vander Zalm’s return to politics than it was about helping the economy and making sure we had jobs.
This is not to say that the government is blameless. They completely botched the media coverage. They thought they could tack on an extra 7% to many goods and services without anyone noticing, when they should have been up front about the benefits from the start. Now, I’m not a tax lawyer, but from the research I’ve been able to gather, we need the HST for at least three reasons:
1) To reduce the cost of doing business in BC.
Under the PST system, BC businesses had to pay taxes on every input to their business. This includes heat, electricity, machinery, and computers. The HST eliminates these taxes and only needs to be paid on the end consumer product. This means more money for businesses so they can grow and invest in such grand things as HUMAN capital, which means better jobs for you and I. Even if you don’t have a job at this point, you could start your own business and have less costs to worry about.
2) To simplify the tax code for businesses.
Bringing in the HST and eliminating the PST takes out an entire level of bureaucracy for businesses. This frees up time and money they can use on other aspects of their services.
3) To keep tax revenue flowing from a rapidly aging population.
Like it or not, baby boomers are retiring, leaving a massive income tax revenue gap. An increased sales tax is a good way to make up the shortfall without increasing the burden on young people.
We should have known that, but they never bothered to tell us. Why should they, given how we reacted when we found out we’d be paying an extra quarter on our egg mcmuffins? The problem is that all political parties see themselves as immutable, flawless institutions, not a bunch of human beings in suits trying to make decisions.
If the HST does what it’s supposed to do and we all have more income because of it, who cares if we pay a little more sales tax? I think to complain about it gives the government a little too much credit. It’s up to us to make real changes in government. The HST is but one idea to make the province a better place and keep our government from spending money it doesn’t have. If we don’t have a better idea to take its place, all this petition is doing is tying up our supreme court and generating a little schadenfreude for bitter Liberal opponents who couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery, much less form a government.