Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Elites tell public to sit down, shut up about Harmonized Sales Tax - time to teach them a lesson
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Reviled HST not a done deal
December 15, 2009
"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes."
-- Andrew Jackson, U.S. President 1829-37
"Sit down. Shut up. You don't understand. It's for your own good. Eventually you will benefit. It's a done deal."
That's a short summary of what most political, business and media elites are telling the public about the harmonized sales tax (HST) to be imposed on B.C. and Ontario citizens on July 1, 2010.
And it smacks of the same self-serving, arrogant approach the elites took in the 1992 Charlottetown Accord national referendum, which went down to resounding defeat despite their overwhelming support.
Unfortunately the biggest transfer of wealth from consumers to big business won't be subject to a binding referendum -- the elites can't allow a vote that would kill the HST.
But despite HST legislation passing in Ottawa last week with the federal Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois all voting in favour and only the New Democrats opposed, the deal is not "done."
Despite the Ontario Liberals pushing the HST through over the objections of the provincial Conservatives and NDP, people will not "sit down."
And here, despite B.C. Liberals insisting that they too will ram through the HST, the public will not "shut up."
No 'meal tax'!
This past week also saw the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association launch its own campaign against the HST -- No Meal Tax -- after failing to convince Premier Gordon Campbell to remove the planned 7 per cent tax on restaurant food. The CRFA fears the industry could lose $750 million -- nearly $50,000 per average restaurant -- and thousands of jobs.
It has launched a consumer petition to express public opposition.
HST backers punished in polls
Two new Angus Reid Public Opinion polls show that both the Ontario and B.C. Liberal parties are paying a huge political price for the HST -- months before it's even imposed.
The Dalton McGuinty Liberals have dropped into a poor second place in just a few months at only 29 per cent, while the Conservatives under leader Tim Hudak have soared to 41 per cent thanks to their spirited battle against the HST, which included having elected members occupy the Legislature. And the Ontario NDP has also jumped to 20 per cent.
In B.C. the Campbell Liberals have plummeted to 33 per cent while the Carole James NDP is at an all-time high of 47 per cent.
And the HST is the reason in both provinces, with Ipsos Reid finding that 82 per cent of British Columbians oppose the tax, 61 per cent strongly. A stunning 91 per cent believe it will hurt the provincial economy.
In Ontario, 75 per cent oppose the HST, with 57 per cent saying they do so "strongly" and 83 per cent believe it will make goods and services more expensive.
The HST vote in Parliament is also hurting the federal Conservatives in B.C. The CRFA did a poll which showed 54 per cent viewed the government as "less favourable" after learning Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed the HST deal.
And the CRFA uses strong language in condemning the HST:
"It's very simple. The new Meal Tax will hurt our communities while supporting tax breaks to business," the CRFA website says. "How can we support a tax that 'will raise more money from consumers to give tax breaks to business and there won't be more money for health or social programs.'"
Saskatchewan as prologue
And for those who say it is a "done deal" regardless of overwhelming opposition, look to Saskatchewan, where the Conservative government that brought in an HST was defeated in the 1991 election by New Democrats who reversed the legislation.
The Fight HST campaign, which I support, will try next year to force a province-wide initiative vote to overturn the tax.
The elites think they have already won. Time for the people to teach them another lesson.