Stick men, straw men debate HST

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

Just Posted

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

Hope arena turns green for hockey tourney

A second attempt at green ice, with proper ice paint, after food colouring experiment last year

Project Hope celebrates first birthday

Also: lego-mania comes to town, lineup of all-female comedians entertains Friday

New Hope clothing store loses $6,700 after early morning break-in

Broke Buckle Clothing Company owners hold “dirty deeds” sale after loss

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

B.C. man to plead guilty in connection with hit-and-run that killed teen

Jason Gourlay charged with failure to stop at the scene of accident, attempting to obstruct justice

BCHL Today: Wenatchee Wild goaltenders a cause for concern

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Canadian survivors, supporters rally against proposed ’60s Scoop settlement

Some have accused the government of underestimating the number of survivors

Nordic athlete Arendz to be Canada’s flagbearer at Paralympic closing ceremony

The biathlete and cross-country skier from Hartsville has raced to five medals in Pyeongchang

VIDEO: ‘Big time disappointment’ as Vancouver Giants fall to undermanned Kelowna Rockets

Head coach Jason McKee very unhappy with effort in Giants’ regular season home finale

Hometown cheers on B.C.’s Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Most Read