REALITY CHECK: Liberals Continue To Mislead As They Cling To The HST

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The Clark Liberals continue to mislead British Columbians about the HST in their desperate bid to save their political skins. Their story changes so frequently that it is impossible to trust anything they're saying.

Here is a timeline of the Liberal HST story.

  • 2005: Liberal Small Business Minister Rick Thorpe launches a “Provincial Sales Tax Review” – which concludes it is too expensive to lower the PST by one per cent. When asked if the B.C. Liberals would bring in an HST, he says “The answer is a simple 'no,' and the reason is we feel we do not want to give our sovereign tax rights away to the federal government.” Thorpe also notes that he did not see any economic benefit of harmonizing the taxes.
  • 2006: Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor says “not on my watch” when questioned about whether the B.C. Liberals would bring in the HST.
  • May 2009: During the election period, the Liberals respond in writing to a questionnaire saying that a harmonized sales tax “would extend the PST tax base to a broad range of goods and services that are presently exempt from the provincial sales tax. Such items that are currently PST-exempt include energy-efficient appliances, membership fees for clubs and gyms, newspapers and magazines, taxi fares, restaurant food and the professional services of architects and accountants. This is a major concern. The harmonized GST would make it harder for future provincial governments to lower or raise sales tax rates, which reduces flexibility. In short, a harmonized GST is not something that is contemplated in the B.C. Liberal platform.”
  • July 2009: Liberals announce that they are bringing in the HST, saying “this is the single-biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy.”
  • August 2009: Finance Minister Colin Hansen says that the HST will be revenue neutral. “In terms of the revenue of the HST, it's roughly the same as the revenue we currently get from the PST. People use the term 'revenue neutral,' but what we expect will come in under the HST is what we currently get.”
  • March 2010: Finance Minister Colin Hansen promises all the money raised by the 'revenue neutral' HST will go towards healthcare.
  • April 2010: Now former Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor says she opposes the HST because it forces families to pay more. “This particular tax takes the tax off of businesses – it takes $1.8 billion off of businesses – and puts it on consumers. And so that shift is a shift that is ideological as well as factual. And so many people will be paying a seven-per-cent increase on a lot of services and consumer goods.”
  • July 2010: Liberal press release claims the HST will create “113,000 jobs by the end of the coming decade.”
  • March 2011: Newly elected premier Christy Clark says “we aren't going to be talking about trying to reduce it by a point or two before the referendum. I mean, I think people will see that as buying them with their own money. Also, though, too, cutting the HST by one point is more than $800m out of the budget this year and every year after, $1.6b for a two-point cut, and we need to ask ourselves where we're going to get that money, because either we're going to have a $1.6b bigger deficit or we're going to have $1.6b fewer heart operations, special needs teachers, school facilities, hospital emergency rooms. I mean, that's where the money comes from, ultimately.”
  • May 2011: Finance Minister Kevin Falcon claims “there will be an additional almost 25,000 new highly paid jobs created in British Columbia as a result of harmonizing the PST with the GST.” This is three-quarters fewer jobs than the claim the Liberals made just a year before, and doesn't include thousands of jobs that are being lost in the restaurant industry.
  • May 2011: Premier Clark promises to cut the HST by two per cent if British Columbians vote to keep the HST, less than two months after she said she would do no such thing.
  • June 2011: Liberal governmentTV commercials paid for with public money claim that voters are choosing between a 10 per cent tax and a 12 per cent tax” but say nothing about the fact that thecurrent HST charges seven-per-cent more on hundreds of goods and services that previously had zero-per-cent provincial sales tax under the PST. The TV ads also neglect to say that the 10 per cent level is just a Liberal promise that may or may not take effect in two years.
  • June 2011: The Liberals continue to ask how New Democrats would fill the budget hole left by their 'revenue neutral' HST all the while failing to tell voters how many fewer “$1.6b fewer heart operations, special needs teachers, school facilities, hospital emergency rooms” really is.