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."

Thank goodness.

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.'"

Exactly right.

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.



Anonymous said...

The elites want us to shut up about everything except what's reported on TMZ. Enjoy your pablum.

Anonymous said...

What is most interesting about Canada's, and especially BC's "beautiful elites" is that they have largely created-themselves on the tax-payers' purse.

These people start out as mid-level public sector and private sector opportunists and then they get themselves positioned by appointment or by rigged election inside government or into government's fellow-traveller organizations and ride the gravey train to fame and fortune at our expense.

We have in a sense created our own monsters, sadly we lack the balls to destroy our own monsters.


DPL said...

The picture would be quite hilarious except that the two clowns, the big white stick, mittens and scarfs are all being paif for by the suckers who vote for such idiots. when all else fails bring in another tax and try to get away with it. I remember V.Palmer talking about Campbell after government and how his preformace in business before getting elected as being less than stellar.

Laila Yuile said...

Not to detract from the importance of your post, but it looks like Stevie is trying to either clean Gordo's ear with the torch... or stick it right in there.

There has to be a caption to go with that one, Bill.

Imgawd said...


Angus Burke said...

More than 50% of tax revenues is spent on health care. Eliminate the HST and start firing doctors and nurses. We can't afford them. No need to have emergency rooms open in all districts. Just keep VHG open but make it user pay. If the government can't raise taxes, cut other social programs too. Your BC standard of living is not sustainable and you will pay dearly. We hear the complaints by unknowledgeable bloggers like Laila Yuile and Tielemen. Where's your solution??? You got none. Just like a typical politician.

Anonymous said...

Just did a exercise calculating how much I would have paid this past year on a few selected items if the 7% HST was in place.

For phone, Hydro & natural gas, my wallet would be lighter by $125.

The HST for automobile fuel to date would be around $215.00 and I'm working on how much I've actually paid in carbon taxes on the fuel purchases.

This year I've paid $56.56 extra in carbon taxes on my natural gas bill + GST is charged on the carbon taxes.

I'm keeping track of the numbers so when the Conservatives or BC Lib's call me and ask me for a donation I'll have a response for them and it won't be pretty.

Bill Tieleman said...

Angus - do your research - you just don't understand the HST yet! The BC government has clearly stated it over and over - the HST will not, repeat NOT, provide additional revenue for health care or anything else.

The revenue raised is transferred to business for input tax credits.

That's how it works!

Bill Tieleman said...

Further to my last comment, here's an excerpt from an interview with Colin Hansen by the Burnaby Now on August 13.

NOW: How much money is the government expecting to make?

COLIN HANSEN: In terms of the revenue of the HST, it's roughly the same as the revenue we currently get from the PST. People use the term “revenue neutral,” but what we expect will come in under the HST is what we currently get.

CRA said...

So tielemen, how are we gonna pay for services then? Angus is right. No taxes collected mean no services. I'm okay with no services for the public. The single concept that you don't understand is the TOTAL COST OF HEALTH IS THE PROBLEM. WE CAN'T AFFORD IT SO YOU EITHER CUT COST OR RAISE TAXES. NO RESEARCH IS REQUIRED.

The government can directly tax the taxpayers by simply taking it from source like employment income. Would you rather have a 5% increase across the board? That's worst than HST. The problem with indirect taxes like import, pst, gst, and other excise taxes were considered hidden. These taxes were buried in the cost. The government will either get you directly or indirectly. If you're smart, you would rather have the money in the pocket and choose to spend it your way. But the poor lemmings like yourself would rather the government takes its taxes at source. Then you really have no choice.

Bill Tieleman said...

CRA - I completely disagree, because a consumption tax is regressive - it costs lower and middle income earners more of their overall income. An income tax is progressive - it increases with the income level.

The question of health care costs is entirely separate since the HST doesn't raise additional government revenue, as Colin Hansen readily admits.

But to suggest consumers "choose" how to spend their money under an HST system is misleading at best. I can't "choose" to avoid many of the goods and services that the HST will apply to. Others may be a "choice" - like restaurant food - but not a real one.

In any event, the government continues to say it has cut taxes, not raised them and that the HST isn't providing new revenue, so your arguments don't hold water.

Tax Lawyer said...

Funny stuff Tieleman. Only thing progressive is the tax rate in the Canadian system. Try not to use tax words when you don't understand them. The concept of tax integration between corporations and individuals are beyond your scope. From an absolute tax collection perspective, those spending more will pay more into the system. Thus the rich will consume more, thus pay more. Who cares if there is HST on a brand new $5M home. The poor are the only ones that benefit this. I'm at 43.7% tax bracket. I think I pay my fair share in taxes. If you think otherwise, try working harder.

Health care cost ARE an important factor. Tax revenues come from personal, corporate, excise tax, property tax, etc. Tax revenues are used to pay for health care, education, infrastucture,military, social programs, etc. If cost remains the same and tax revenues goes down, well we have a problem. We aren't even talking about keeping the same level of services. We HAVE to cut services and raise taxes. But your way tieleman, raise services and pretend to pay for it with make believe money. You can't see your own flaws. It's obvious.

By the way, not a PAB or voter. All parties are useless. Self-sufficient and love life.

how can blogging be a career said...

The fair tax “is the only tax that totally untaxes the poor; the poor get a free ride totally across the board at the federal level”. That's progressive according to Tieleman. Nice incentive for those who work harder and innovate than those who simply do nothing but blog.

Angela said...

"The elites think they have already won. Time for the people to teach them another lesson."

I know how you feel Bill. It was only seven months ago that you were telling people to "get over it" in reference to the Electoral Reform movement. You thought it was a done deal and that you won.

In both cases it is only over if the people trying to convince the government to do the right thing simply roll over and give up. So you keep bashing your head against the wall, I wish you all the luck. When you run out of dead horses to beat, feel free to join us.

It's impossible to stop the HST from happening but we will some day have a representative democracy (not the pseudo representative version in place now - have you heard what Keith Martin had to say? and you know it's worse provincially).

Fortunately for you there is still hope for the next best thing. You can look forward to the tax being reversed when the Liberals are finally ousted. Of course it could then be brought back by the next Liberal majority and the usual campaign dishonesty but at least we wouldn't have anything as hideously unstable as STV.

I swear you must be on crack to actually believe yourself sometimes. The difference between our causes is that you are fighting the Liberal party and their deception. I am fighting the style of government. You will still have the same problem with a different party whereas I will be finding a solution to the problem inherent in all political issues.

Some day you will learn. Well, maybe not, but it's the season when we believe in miracles so who knows. You are incredibly irritating but I'm glad you're hear for myself and others to vent so I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I look forward to the usual diet of political crapola in 2010. And we get a bonus helping of Olympic crapola. Yum!

Anonymous said...


You must of pissed-off a few of our beautiful & beloved Premier's "fart-catchers" with this column and picture since "Tax-Lawyer, CRA & Angus" sound like they are reading from the Fraser Institute (and Trailer Parks)simplified talking points for neo-con Dummies.

And for ANGUS, I have my personal favourite solution to elites and unjust taxes . . . that being a major historic and political event taking place in London on January 30th, 1649.


Cynical Basturd said...

It's the electoral system, stupid!

Zalm's bid to mount a grassroots referendum is laudable, but hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding. 10% of all eligible voters must be signed up in ALL ridings, done in a set period of time. The uber-cynic in me says if you can't get even 50% out to a general election, you ain't gonna have a hope in inspiring referendum activism. The army of volunteer canvassers needed to pull it off - no way, no how. Especially in rural ridings.

Even if such a referendum did miraculously succeed, what's to stop the Liberals/Cons from simply redesigning and reintroducing the tax under another name, like the Married Sales Tax (MMT) - nice ring to it, eh?

Here's the other wild card likely to happen if a referendum ever did get close. The old divide and conquer schtick. Campbell will buy off your restaurant pals with a sweet exemption deal, thereby driving a wedge right down the middle of your protest base. Case closed, done deal.

Another problem. True activists and labour unions have their wish lists and priorities when it comes to giving up their time (and money) for a cause. Poverty, homelessness, minimum wage, global warming, social housing, autistic children, anti-Olympics, among others, all rank way above the HST. Come time for the referendum campaign, you'd have to pray absolutely nothing urgent is happening in the world. Not gonna happen.

Bill, I know you hate this ghost to be revived, but all of this HST nonsense would be much easier remedied under a PR voting system. Once a FPTP majority govt decides to do something like this, they simply do it, public opinion be damned. Saskatchewan is a freak exception to the rule, and you neglect the utter criminal, scandalous ruin the Devine Tories were in, for a host of other, non-HST reasons, at that time.

Bill Tieleman said...

Cynical Basturd - great nom de plume by the way - explain this to me about Proportional Representation:

Their is no majority FPTP government in Parliament. Around 80% of voters in both Ontario and BC oppose the HST. The Liberal Party and NDP both openly attacked the HST prior to December.

So how is it that under PR the vote that happened - the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc all supporting the HST - couldn't take place?

Even Conservative MPs must realize that most of their supporters oppose the HST.

In a PR situation the likely outcome would have been the Conservatives would have cut a backroom deal with the Bloc to write a $3 billion cheque to Quebec to secure their vote and get the majority needed.

I have to say you are simply not very Cynical at all if you think PR would solve problems like this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the neo-cons have found you Bill.

You must be turning over the right rocks because all those slimy things are starting to make noise.

Anonymous said...

Bill Vander Zalm laughs when he goes home at night.

Cynical Basturd said...


Your straw man re: my point about PR has been respectfully noted. However, we're not taking about absolutes here, but tendencies and flexibilities. A PR system is generally a more flexible system as far as encouraging democratic cooperation and discouraging totality and sheep-like party discipline.

In no way am I suggesting an HST would never pass under such a system. What I am saying is the the culture of politic under a PR system, with the greater likelihood of coalitions, would discourage ruling parties from passing hugely unpopular policies, especially ones with the added stink of dishonesty, deception, like this particular HST.

You predict PR would have prompted a backroom deal between Con & Bloc. Perhaps. But with a majority, the Cons would have done just as bad, if not worse - ram through a policy it has mandate to ram through. Take your pick. I ain't saying PR is perfect, but a political cost-benefit analysis tells me democracy can breath a bit more under PR, than be held down and choked by 4-year totalitarian regimes, many of which have less than half the popular vote. I don't consider a minority govt in Ottawa any comparison to a PR scenario, because of the looming threat of absolute power lost or won. Parties constantly have this in the back of their minds and behave accordingly.

Faced with the prospect of having to coalition with a few small parties in the BC Legislature, a PR Campbell regime would never even have bothered to try hoodwinking BCers in quite the blatant way they did post-election. And you would not be left wasting your time with Zalm embarking on a futile anti-HST campaign; or, your campaign might at least be a lot less futile, depending on the numbers in the House.

Digby said...

Hey Tieleman. Most will agree (including many studies) that our "universal health care" in Canada is broken. Meaning high expense, average results. In BC alone it's over half our budget. Salaries in health industry is problem number one. Doctors shouldn't be making 500K to 1M. Nurses shouldn't be making 100K. Even if this is the high end, too much money for poor results. So if you agree with this, how the hell are we gonna pay for it.

It's not a question of will HST fund more health. No, it shouldn't and it won't. We should cut the pay and the health budget and force that industry to become more efficient. Simply run by the government in useless. Of course the union backers will be up in arms. I don't mind HST, it's part of the solution. More needs to be done.

Cut services said...

http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/legislation/pdf/bluebook2007.pdf for a sample of what each doctor in BC makes (they make additional income when they have private sources). 2009 health expenditures over $3Billion. There's your problem.

Anonymous said...

Congrats NDP! You have now outsourced your policy handbook over to Tim Hudaks Ontario PC party. Vigorous opposition to pricing carbon? Check. Opposition to the HST? Check.

NDPs next policy announcement? Outlawing abortion.

The Reagan Revolution Lives!!!!

Anonymous said...

Gordon Campbell can take his f'in red, made in China mittens, and shove them up his ass.

He thinks he is going to win on the HST issue? It will only be the beginning. From underground tax evasion, to theft and robbery, we will all do what is necessary to keep food on the table.

Eat the rich.

Anonymous said...

angus burke you will be ok soon they're going to reopen the nut house