EDITORIAL: Pause before automatically nixing HST

Most British Columbians, even many in the provincial Liberal party, acknowledge the HST was badly introduced without even an attempt to explain it or give us a say.

Most British Columbians, even many in the provincial Liberal party, acknowledge the HST was badly introduced without even an attempt to explain it or give us a say.

Although its provincial champion, Gordon Campbell, was forced to resign as premier in disgrace, much anger and resentment remains.

Decisions made for purely emotional reasons are not usually good ones, so let’s assess what we’re voting on.

The HST shifts some tax burden from business onto consumers by eliminating many exemptions added to the provincial sales tax through the years.

It harmonizes two archaic and complicated tax regimes into one. That greatly simplifies bookkeeping, a particular boon for small businesses that don’t have an accounting department.

The B.C. government and businesses argue that the HST will help them to be more efficient, modernized and profitable, which could create more jobs and maybe drop prices.

While there’s some truth to that, trickledown economics is a tricky thing. Money saved is just as likely to go onto the bottom line and into dividends for shareholders, who hold as much sway over corporations than customers or even government.

Having said that, the implications of dissolving the HST are dire.

Ottawa transferred $580 million Monday to Victoria, the final instalment in the $1.6-billion incentive to create the GST.

Unlike Jack Layton and his reckless, impractical election promise that a federal NDP government would allow B.C. to keep the $1.6 billion if the HST were extinguished, the Conservatives would rightly expect it all to be repaid.

That would balloon the current B.C. debt of almost $1 billion, forcing Victoria to raise taxes, cut services or both.

And we would return to the archaic tax system that would make our businesses less competitive against international competitors operating under a harmonized tax model.

Think carefully before voting yes to extinguish the HST.


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