In the Spotlight: Why the HST is the right tax for B.C.

B.C. Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier Kevin Falcon discusses his thoughts on the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

B.C.'s Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier Kevin Falcon

With just a few days left to return HST ballots, I’d like to discuss the importance of the decision in front of you and encourage you to vote if you haven’t already.

One of the concerns we’ve heard quite frequently is the confusion over the ballot question itself.

This question was developed by Elections BC, an organization independent from government. To be clear, a No vote is a vote to keep the HST and a Yes vote is a vote to go back to the PST plus GST.

I have said since day one that I intend to vote No to higher taxes and to keep the HST. It is important to understand what this means. If you are in favour of lower taxes and a 10-per cent HST, you should vote No on your ballot.

Nine of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world all use an HST-type consumption tax and so do 140 countries around the world. No jurisdiction anywhere has introduced a retail sales tax in decades. Voting Yes is a vote for a 12 per cent GST plus PST tax with a bureaucratic and expensive dual-tax system.

Also, if voters choose to keep the HST and vote No, the Province will provide a $175 per-child HST transition payment for families and $175 for seniors with annual incomes of up to $40,000, to help with the transition until the rate drops – one per cent in 2012 and a further one per cent in 2014.

These proposed changes are responsive and fair and allow us to keep our commitment to balancing our budget. Importantly, the proposed changes to the HST, including transition payments, will only take effect should British Columbians vote No to the referendum question and retain the HST.

Overwhelmingly, businesses, small and large alike, are in support of the HST and are encouraging people to vote No to keep it.

This is an important consideration because these companies are the backbone of our economy and ensure you and your family have well-paying jobs throughout all our communities.

For almost every sector – whether it’s the film industry, tourism, forestry, mining or agriculture – the HST is a better tax because it is simpler and more progressive, which means these companies save money and can add jobs.

The anti-HST forces are trying to make this an emotional vote instead of focusing on the facts. I have acknowledged we did a poor job introducing the tax but we all need to move on and focus on what is right for the province.

They are trying to convince you that the HST is a tax break for big business and hurts everyone else. They completely ignore the fact we are taking a balanced approach by lessening the burden on families and shifting some of the burden onto business.

I know British Columbians will see past their games and focus on the decision at hand.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve worked hard to keep British Columbia competitive by developing a business climate that encourages companies to invest here and create jobs for families across every region of this province.

The HST is one more reason B.C. is a good place for business to invest and grow. Voting No in the referendum will mean a 10 per cent HST for British Columbia by July 1, 2014. It will also help us remain a top investment choice for businesses and mean more high-paying jobs for our families.

Your opportunity to vote ends soon. All ballots must be received by Elections BC or any Service BC office no later than 4:30 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

I will be voting No in the referendum because I believe the HST is the right choice for our families, our businesses and our communities. I encourage all British Columbians to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision and vote. It’s your choice.

– Kevin Falcon is B.C.’s minister of finance and deputy premier