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HST: So where ARE those lower prices?

The Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell told us the HST would be “revenue neutral.” 

Not true. They promised 100,000 jobs by 2020 as a  result of all the money companies would be saving and reinvesting. Latest estimate: a quarter of that. 

And they assured consumers, onto whose backs the HST transfers the tax burden, prices will come down as a result of all the money corporations would be saving. Remember that one?

I haven’t seen it.

In fact, in December, the Victoria Times Colonist reported “HST Pushes BC inflation rate above national average.” And the latest report from Statistics Canada, to the end of March, calculates BC’s annual inflation rate at 3.1 per cent.  

These figures clearly show prices are UP, not down.  Admittedly, though, that reflects prices on goods over which BC has little or no control (fuel, travel etc.): but what about consumer goods?

Am I just shopping at the wrong stores?  Have you seen prices falling all around you?  Even part of the 13.5 per cent Manufacturers Sales Tax lifted from businesses?  How much are you saving from all those lower prices?

News reports this week told us, in fact, that an independent panel not working for either side on the HST debate now projects the average family will pay an EXTRA $350 a year in taxes because of the HST. So much for revenue neutral.

Notice the silence from all those politicians, business “experts”, industry spokespersons and media pundits who fed us that revenue neutral lie over and over again.

And remember that extra $350 a year in taxes is based on “normal” every day purchases? Run into some special expenses, like a new fridge, stove, washer, dryer or have to put a new roof on your home and you’ll be a LOT poorer thanks to the HST.

But it’s the  ”lower prices” issue that is the HST’s real Achilles heel: they just don’t exist, at least not to any significant number of products.

So let’s review: lower corporate taxes, but little new investment, puny extra job growth, almost no lower prices and, ask anyone working for the biggest HST winners, no great wage or benefit increases.

What has happened? The HST is just making corporate owners and shareholders richer: some of us may benefit from that in our investment and RRSP portfolios. 

But that is NOT in any way what we were told and promised this tax would be about: make the rich richer on the backs of the consumer, including families that were having  trouble making ends meet before the HST was imposed on them.

The HST is a rotten tax.

And now, to keep it, the same politicians,  experts and their media allies who lied to us earlier, as outlined above, have a new mantra: we must keep our industries competitive.

Yes, we must. But apparently, we were already doing that even without the HST.  Corporate taxes in BC are reportedly about half of those paid in the United States; our industries are highly productive; and our resources are so sought after (especially by China) none will go begging just because parent corporations lose their HST advantage.

The truth is government has other means at its disposal to aid any specific industries that would truly lose their competitive edge if the HST was revoked.

To inflict this heavy EXTRA tax burden throughout the province to just give a gift to the biggest corporations and their top executives, is simply not fair.  

Unless they can show us that list of all the products where price have been lowered.

Harv Oberfeld is a blogger and retired journalist. This column originally appeared in his blog, Keeping It Real. Reprinted with permission.