HST in BC: Jon Kesselman asserts, I rebut

In the Vancouver Sun for today, Jon Kesselman wrote in support of the HST. I posted this to the digital edition of the paper but it doesn't seem to be sticking there, so I'm cross-posting it here:

Opponents of the HST are accused of being hysterical, ignorant and blindly acting in opposition to their own interests but such name-calling is not helping this debate in the least.

Decrying lack of transparency is not hysteria. Objecting to politicians turning 180 degrees from a not-very-well-publicized answer during a campaign is not hysteria. Alarm because governments are listening to some elite economists instead of the voters who sent them to Victoria is not hysteria.

Notwithstanding that Mr. Kesselman's remarks may be the last word in wisdom on the HST, the failure of the government to walk through this reasonably and transparently is serious enough that I will sign the petition and vote against the HST -- and in doing so, I will object in the strongest possible terms to anyone who calls it hysteria.

Fears that HST will drive more of the economy underground are well-founded. Whenever I deal with an independent contractor whose services are taxable under the GST, I still regularly get quoted a cash price -- clear evidence that collecting, tracking, paying and being rebated the GST is unacceptably burdensome to the lower end of the economy. The HST will only make this worse. If opposing HST can be construed as hysterical, cheerleading for it can just as easily be construed as naive and out of touch with ordinary folks. I don't see Mr. Kesselman dealing with that risk, at all.

As for the savings of business that will be passed along to the consumer once they begin to flow, did any of these savings result after the GST came in? I don't remember the price falling and I expect the businessmen to pocket the difference again when the HST arrives. That's what happens to savings passed along to all businesses at the same time. That may be cynical, but it's not hysteria.

PST, whatever its ills to B2B commerce in BC are, has the compassionate, enlightened, valuable exemptions on groceries, books, school supplies and childrens' clothes. GST has no such exemption -- one of the reasons I still oppose it -- and HST will not either. Maybe this exemption no longer has value to BC's families but if that's the case, they should come under public scrutiny and widespread debate before we turn and walk away from them. If opposing HST is hysterical, supporting it strongly can be construed as heartless, uncaring and ignorant of the needs of the least well-off families of the province.

Of course these families will receive HST rebates (which will, hopefully be at least twice what the GST rebates are now) but that requires the knowledge that the rebate should be applied for and the freedom to save up that rebate to apply to the no-longer-tax-exempt necessaries that need to be bought every week of the year. Anyone who knows such families understands how unreasonable it is to believe that this "no addded burden" for greater benefit. Unawareness of this segment of society isn't just heartless and uncompassionate, it's willfully so, and therefore an even more culpable condition.

Maybe HST is better for the province. The way the Liberals are bringing it in and imposing it on us is even more heavy-handed and anti-democratic than the introduction of the GST was under the over-sized majority enjoyed by the Mulroney government. If the government of British Columbia thinks this is such a good idea, the time to convince BCers of this is before negotiations with Ottawa began, not as the regimen is about to be imposed on us in a manner that is impossible to escape from for a period of five years.

This is not the mandate they earned in the last election -- in fact, given one (to my knowledge) campaign-trail answer before the last election, the mandate runs the other way. Scrap the HST and make sure we want you to bring it in or as surely as Bill Vander Zalm and the NDP are the most unlikely of political allies, I will sign this petition and vote to defeat the current HST when the question is put to me.

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