Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Federal Liberals and Conservatives guilty of contempt of BC voters, given their hypocrisy on imposing HST on British Columbians

Stephen Harper - thumbs up to HST!

Michael Ignatieff - HST perfect!
Only Jack Layton's NDP Consistently Oppose 'Harper Sales Tax' - and voted against it in Parliament

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours & The Tyee online column

Tuesday April 12, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Wrongs are often forgiven; contempt never."

- Lord Chesterfield, 1694-1773

Opposition parties defeated the federal government by voting that the Stephen Harper Conservatives were in "contempt of Parliament" for not releasing information on the cost of fighter jets and crime legislation.

But when it comes to a key political issue in British Columbia -- the Harmonized Sales Tax -- both the Liberals and Conservatives have been in "contempt of voters."

When ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell announced the HST back in July 2009, the public reacted with anger at paying an extra seven per cent more on restaurant food, basic telephone and cable TV, domestic airline tickets, sports and entertainment events, home renovations and repairs and much more.

A Facebook protest group I formed quickly grew to over 130,000 members, thanks to readers of The Tyee, 24 Hours newspaper and others.

Then 557,383 valid voter signatures were gathered on Canada's first successful citizens initiative petition by Fight HST, the group created by former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm, ex-Unity Party leader Chris Delaney and me.

That forced the BC Liberal government to promise a binding referendum on the HST, which will now be held by mail ballot from mid-June to July 22.

And Liberal MPs in B.C. were very happy to jump on the anti-HST bandwagon.

Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh sent a flyer out to constituents strongly denouncing the HST -- and Harper.

"Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are pushing a Harmonized Sales Tax hike on B.C. that at the end of the day will only hurt ordinary British Columbians. Everything from food to housing is going to cost more," Dosanjh wrote.

Libs forced to vote against tide

But when the HST legislation came up in Parliament, Dosanjh voted in favour of imposing the HST on B.C., not against it, because Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ordered his MPs to support it.

"Ultimately, my argument lost out," said Dosanjh. "I still detest the tax. My constituents detest it."

Newton-North Delta Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal similarly made his opposition to the HST clear in his winter 2009 constituency report:

"And Harper has added the Harmonized Sales Tax to the burden of B.C. families already struggling to make it through this difficult economic period," he said, calling it the Harper Sales Tax.

"Now that British Columbia has been forced to accept the harmonization of the sales tax, it is time to look a little closer at how it all came together -- and the role the Harper government has played in its implementation," Dhaliwal wrote.

"In smaller communities that depend on tourism, there is considerable outrage from the restaurant and hospitality sector. Just as these businesses were starting to find their footing, they are feeling more vulnerable than ever."

But then Dhaliwal also changed his tune.

Dhaliwal told The Globe and Mail that Ignatieff's position to vote in favour of the HST was "responsible" and "visionary."

"We have to look professional... not opportunist," he said, presumably with a straight face. Not one Liberal MP voted against the HST.

Stephen Harper, raiser of taxes

But Harper and the Conservatives are hypocrites on the HST as well.

Harper made much of his cutting the Goods and Services Tax from seven per cent to six per cent and then five per cent in 2006 and 2008 -- which was the right thing to do with this regressive, punishing and unfair tax on consumers.

"Under our government, taxes are headed only one direction: down," Harper claimed on Dec. 31, 2007. "The two-point reduction will save the average working family hundreds of dollars per year on day-to-day purchases, not to mention hundreds more on a new car or thousands on a new home."

But Harper and his government voted to send taxes in only one direction -- up -- when they imposed the HST on B.C. just two years later.

Harper also trashed ex-Liberal leader Stephane Dion's proposed national carbon tax during the 2008 election, saying a new tax would hurt "the average working family."

"Canadians don't want a new tax and British Columbians don't want double carbon taxation," Harper told the media in a Richmond campaign stop on Sept. 8, 2008.

"Everybody knows -- especially in British Columbia -- that that kind of a carbon tax is not revenue neutral on the average working family," he said. (Harper declined all comment on Campbell's own carbon tax but didn't change his words.)

Harper obviously again implied strongly that his own government would never impose a new tax on British Columbians.

Flip, flop, flip, flop

But then Harper's government forced the HST on British Columbians through an act of Parliament in Dec. 2009.

Harper also paid the $1.6 billion one-time "implementation" grant that Campbell desperately wanted to reduce his massive provincial deficit.

Harper: principled or contemptible?

And his MPs weren't any better. Surrey North Conservative MP Dona Cadman said she would vote in Parliament to oppose the HST.

"I vote with the people or for the people," Cadman said in Dec. 2009.

But when the vote took place, Cadman was missing from the House of Commons.

"I wanted to show my support for my constituents, but I could not see standing up and voting outwardly no to my party," Cadman now says to explain breaking her promise.

Layton's New Dems steady foes of hated HST

Jack Layton and all NDP MPs should be held to account for their own bad decisions -- including risking a Tory majority by defeating the government when Harper was high in the polls.

Jack Layton said he opposed HST & voted against HST
 But when it comes to the HST, Layton and his caucus have been completely consistent throughout -- they opposed it, they voted against it and the still want to get rid of it -- the only party which can claim that record in this election. The final vote in Parliament on Dec. 9, 2009 showed 253 in favour, 37 against and 18 abstentions.

The NDP also argues the $1.6 billion federal HST grant should not be have to be repaid if British Columbians vote in the referendum to extinguish the tax.

Regardless of your position on the HST, one clear definition of contempt is telling voters one thing and doing the exact opposite afterwards.

Rather unforgiveable.



Ron1 said...

Don't forget the federal Greens whose policy statement on the HST calls it "a good idea"!!

The BC Greens also support the HST!

Anonymous said...

Hmm so did the NDP (in Nova Scotia)

Bill Tieleman said...

Anon 12:59 - I think the NDP were wrong in Nova Scotia for increasing the HST - it is a regressive tax. I also said the Conservatives federally were right to reduce the GST for the same reasons.

But then they imposed an extra 7% on hundreds of goods and services through the HST.

Lastly, the Nova Scotia situation is a big reminder that governments can increase the HST - the BC Liberals - especially Kevin Falcon - have talked about reducing the HST but the opposite is more likely, after an election of course!

Ron1 said...

The NDP inherited the HST - and a large provincial debt - in Nova Scotia, they did not introduce it.

They raised the HST rate and the income taxes on the highest income levels to eliminate the provincial debt over 4 years.

The Sask NDP abolished the HST that the Devine Sask government had implemented.

Twice in Sask the NDP inherited huge debts accumulated by the old line parties - the Blakeney govt eliminated the large Thatcher Liberal debt and the Romanow NDP eliminated the huge Devine Tory provincial debt.

A new BC NDP govt will also inherit a huge provincial debt from the Bc Fiberals and will need to implement a debt reduction strategy - without an unfair HST.

PeterInEdmonton said...

You are reporting (correctly) that the Federal NDP would let BC keep HST money.

As a leader of the anti-HST forces, what is YOUR stance on this? Have you changed it since you blogged that you were unhappy with the Federal NDP letting the Provincial Liberals have 1.6 billion to spend "any way they want"?

Did you ASK to keep this money? There wasn't a peep about it on this blog until now, 6 days after it came out on the CBC and the Globe. Did Jack Layton consult with you (one of his supporters), who has been so prominent on this, before announcing this policy?

On Page 18 of the Federal NDP platform which I just downloaded from their web site, point 5.16, they state that they will both let BC keep the 1.6 Billion if they vote out the HST and let Quebec have 2 billion for implementing it.

I assume that this 2 billion would also be for Quebec's Provincial Liberals to use any way they want. Or maybe if the PQ is in by the time the cheque comes, they can use it to create separatist propaganda. Do you support that as well?

In case you are wondering why an Albertan cares so much about this, some of that 1.6B$ is coming from my tax dollars. Also, I know some of the people here in Edmonton who have to change the accounting systems for national businesses every time you guys flip back and forth on this.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks Peter - I believe you mean I said I was unhappy with the federal Conservatives - not NDP - letting the BC Liberals do anything they wanted with the $1.6 billion HST implementation grant.

My position is that the HST must be extinguished over and above all else. Clearly the province and federal government must negotiate over the grant repayment.

I've not talked to Layton or anyone from the NDP about the grant or his position, but I am glad of it - since a premier who misled British Columbians before an election about the HST cut a backroom deal with Stephen Harper to bail himself out of a budget deficit 6 times bigger than he told voters before that election.

But if the grant is to be repaid it should be on a pro-rated basis at least, given that at least 1.5 years of the 5 year agreement will have been fulfilled.

I've also publicly said on radio several times that even the full $1.6 billion is less than 1% of the BC budget over 5 years.

Lastly, when can we in BC get back some of the billions you Albertans have taken out of our wallets to build the outrageously expensive and polluting Tar Sands? Seems to me you owe us more than we owe you even if we keep the HST money!

Adrian B. said...

Good column. And I would add an another angle to this HST issue concerning Mr. Harper. Namely, the secret conspiracy between the BC Liberals and Federal Tories to begin discussions on harmonization before the 2009 BC Election and their subsequent cover-up of those (possibly informal) incipient negotiations. The Tories are complicit in that doublecross of British Columbians, which was a big part of the hatred over the tax here of course. For instance, why has Minister Flaherty refused to disclose which province approached him in March 2009 about harmonization? No other province ended up harmonizing, and enough of the non-harmonized provinces are on record as not approaching Ottawa at that time to necessarily point to BC.

Other provinces may follow Ont. sales tax harmonization: Flaherty


OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday "other provinces" have approached the federal government to talk about ways to harmonize the federal goods and services tax with provincial sales tax.

Flaherty would not say which provinces are looking at a harmonized sales tax: the only provinces without the combined sales tax are B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.

Quebec has a blended tax but it is not harmonized with federal tax rules. Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax.

Flaherty has long argued that the harmonized sales tax cuts costs for businesses and can help boost job creation. He has set aside money in each of his four budgets to help provinces make that transition.

Last week, Ontario's Liberal government, after objecting to the combined tax for years, decided to switch.

Ottawa agreed to help Canada's most populous province with that move by giving Ontario one-time compensation of $4.3 billion.

"I think this is very good economic policy," Flaherty told reporters in Ottawa Monday. "This is a massive tax cut, a $5 billion tax cut for businesses in the province of Ontario and that means job creation and investment in the province of Ontario. So, this is very good economic policy over time.

"I've already heard from other provinces, now that Ontario has done this, that are not harmonized, saying let's talk, we want to move in the same direction. Why? Because they know that that's where the job creation will be and they don't want to be left out."

A spokesperson for Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger said Manitoba has no interest in copying Ontario and has not approached the federal government to talk about harmonization. Manitoba tabled its budget last week and is one of only two provinces that will have a budgetary surplus next year.

The other province with a surplus, Saskatchewan, is also against harmonization. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall campaigned last year on a platform that included no harmonization but recently has hinted that he was open to more discussions on the issue.

"We made a commitment in the campaign," Wall told reporters last week. "Having said that, if the numbers get large enough, and long-term enough, so we can blunt the effects of this on consumers, I'm sure the debate would happen again in the province."

B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen declined to comment on the issue Monday and officials with P.E.I. Treasurer Wesley Sheridan could not be reached...

Anonymous said...

"The NDP inherited the HST - and a large provincial debt - in Nova Scotia, they did not introduce it."

They did not get rid of it.

"They raised the HST rate and the income taxes on the highest income levels to eliminate the provincial debt over 4 years."

The HST rate was raised, it should have been eliminated.

"The Sask NDP abolished the HST that the Devine Sask government had implemented."

So why didn't the Nova Scotia NDP?

"A new BC NDP govt will also inherit a huge provincial debt from the Bc Fiberals and will need to implement a debt reduction strategy - without an unfair HST.

All the more reason for Adrian Dix to be brave enough to say directly to the membership that he would as Premier eliminate the HST six months after taking office, but he has not.

Anonymous said...

"Lastly, when can we in BC get back some of the billions you Albertans have taken out of our wallets to build the outrageously expensive and polluting Tar Sands? Seems to me you owe us more than we owe you even if we keep the HST money!"

Oh good grief Charlie Brown.. Bill, that argument doesn't make much sense. Some of that Tar Sands oil ends up as gasoline at your local gas station.

Since when did Bill become a David Suzuki type comfort environmentalist? Also don't forget the many union jobs the Tar sands provides to our brothers and sisters.