Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Recall in the Fall over HST? Count on it, as desperate BC Liberal spin tries to hide reality of negative impact of new tax

Lawyer Joe Arvay briefs Bill Tieleman, Bill Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney of Fight HST
on legal action launched to overturn the Harmonized Sales Tax in BC

Despite 'Smart Policy' Spin, HST Still Hated

In last three months 72 per cent have a worse opinion of Campbell, one per cent have a better one

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday August 3, 2010

By Bill Tieleman

"I think the roll-out of the HST has been smoother than we anticipated."

- B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen, July 28, 2010

Translation: The tar and feathers intended for B.C. Liberal MLAs who imposed the Harmonized Sales Tax on July 1 will wait until recall campaigns start in mid-November.

But make no mistake -- this government is still reeling from the reaction to imposing the HST that has added an extra seven per cent tax on thousands of goods and services.

Last week Hansen put maximum topspin on the B.C. Liberal government’s recent decision to cancel a plan to mail 1.6 million copies of a 12-page, full colour pro-HST flyer to every residence in the province.

That would be the mailer Elections B.C. stopped Hansen from dropping in the post box -- because it would have violated rules against unregistered opponents of the Fight HST citizens initiative then underway advertising in favour of the tax.

It would also be the mailer that Hansen won't tell us the significant cost of writing, designing and printing, despite the likelihood it will be shredded and recycled.

"The feedback we've had from the public and from many of the MLAs, many felt that it might even be in fact counterproductive at this stage,” Hansen said last week.

No kidding.

The government actually figured out that voters are not interested in being told the tax they hate is really good for them? Finally.

Measuring the HST hatred

And as for the HST itself?

"There's a growing perception that this is actually a smart policy move," Hansen said with a straight face.

Really, minister? Let's take a look at the facts -- and at the disastrous shape your government is now in as a result of imposing the HST.

Start with last week's Conference Board of Canada report that found a huge loss of consumer confidence in B.C., thanks to the HST.

The largest drop in the country came in B.C. and said Conference Board economist Todd Crawford, it "coincided almost one-for-one with the onset of the new HST tax in British Columbia."

The Board consumer confidence index fell 12.9 points to 78.9 after being 109.1 in January 2010.

Which other province now has an even lower level of consumer confidence than B.C.? Only Ontario, where an HST was also imposed in July.

Then there's the Angus Reid Public Opinion poll released July 13 that found 67 per cent of voters in B.C. Liberal ridings would definitely or probably support recall to remove their MLA from office.

That includes 35 per cent of B.C. Liberal voters who would "definitely" sign a recall petition and 19 per cent more that would "probably" sign it.

Of those who voted NDP in B.C. Liberal ridings, 87 per cent would definitely or probably support recall, as would 82 per cent of Green Party voters.

Libs pummelled in polls

And no wonder -- the poll found 30 per cent of respondents expect the HST to "severely" impact their household finances, while 43 per cent think it will "moderately" do so -- only four per cent thought it would have no impact.

For businesses impacted directly by the additional seven per cent the HST added to the GST for the first time, the poll only had bad news.

A full 70 per cent of respondents said they will eat out less often in restaurants due to the HST now applying to all food, while 62 per cent will reduce going to concert and sporting events, and 60 per cent will cut movie and theatre attendance.

That sentiment explains two signs in a restaurant where I ate last week: one looked like a B.C. car license plate but read: "HST NFG." The other apologized for increased prices, blaming the HST.

All this shows why 75 per cent of those polled say they want the HST abolished and only 17 per cent would keep it.

And it demonstrates why the B.C. Liberals dropped even further in support, to a record low 23 per cent -- a massive 23 per cent dive since the 2009 election -- while the New Democrats sit at double that support -- 46 per cent.

Premier Gordon Campbell's "momentum" score? A remarkable 71 per cent, which means that in the last three months 72 per cent have a worse opinion of Campbell and just one per cent have a better one.

Recalls in the offing

Could things possibly get any worse for the B.C. Liberals? Oh yes.

By August 11 Elections BC will announce if the Fight HST initiative petition to kill the tax -- which I am involved with -- has been verified as reaching the sufficient number of signatures to be valid.

With 705,643 signatures obtained in less than the 90 day time limit and a safety margin of an extra five per cent more than the minimum 10 per cent required in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings, the initiative should pass muster.

That would force a B.C. Legislative committee with a B.C. Liberal MLA majority to either send a bill to extinguish the HST to the Legislature or alternatively hold a non-binding vote on the HST across the province on Sept. 24, 2011.

Neither option will help the government, but officially voting down the citizens initiative would likely inflame those who signed -- and just before recall campaigns can be filed starting November 18.
B.C. Liberal MLAs could completely avoid recall -- but not the way they want to.

Battle moving to court

Starting the week of August 16, Fight HST's veteran lawyer Joe Arvay will argue in B.C. Supreme Court that the HST is unconstitutional and must be struck down.

Arvay's argument: every other province which has the HST passed explicit legislation imposing the tax -- but B.C. never did, instead only eliminating the old Provincial Sales Tax and signing a backroom deal with the federal Conservative government to bring in the HST.

If successful, the HST could be struck down by the courts, making the tax illegal and putting the government into a disastrous situation.

That same week a coalition of big business groups that support the HST and the B.C. Liberals will argue conversely that the Fight HST citizens initiative petition itself is unconstitutional.

But if the Council of Forest Industries, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Mining Association of B.C., the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Coast Forest Products Association and the Western Convenience Stores Association are successful, those voters who signed the initiative petition in good faith will likely be furious that the Elections BC-approved official attempt to get rid of the HST has been derailed by big business, again fueling recall efforts.

But there was one tiny bit of good news for the B.C. Liberals in the poll -- they still retain the most support of any political party in the province with just one segment of society -- those who earn over $100,000 a year.

What happens if Campbell ignores the initiative petition?

Recall in the fall -- count on it.

UPDATE - The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) is today calling on Premier Gordon Campbell to take immediate action to mitigate the effect of the HST on restaurants after a province-wide survey of owners found that 72 per cent of respondents said the HST on restaurant meals has had a negative impact on business since it took effect July 1.

The CRFA says that on average, respondents reported a 10 per cent decline in sales compared to the same period last year.

Here is their news release:

* * * * *

Survey shows B.C. restaurants hit hard by HST

VANCOUVER, Aug. 3 /CNW/ - The B.C. restaurant industry's worst fears about the HST have been realized.

In a province-wide survey by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), 72 per cent of respondents said the HST on restaurant meals has had a negative impact on business since it took effect July 1.

On average, respondents reported a 10 per cent decline in sales compared to the same period last year.

"There's no question the HST is hurting B.C. restaurants of all types, from fine dining to take-out," says Garth Whyte, CRFA president and CEO. "On behalf of our members, we will continue to press Premier Campbell for action. With numbers like these, we urgently need government to work with us to mitigate the negative impact of tax harmonization."

The CRFA survey found that:
- only 3 per cent of respondents report the HST is having a positive
impact on their business;
- 72 per cent say the HST is having a negative impact;
- 53 per cent say their customers are spending less;
- 56 per cent have fewer customers;
- 47 per cent have been forced to cut back on staff/staff hours to
adjust to the HST; and
- 26 per cent have had to offer more deals and promotions to mitigate
the HST fallout.

Since HST was first announced more than one year ago, CRFA has warned government that the new tax would result in significantly lower sales for British Columbia's fourth-largest private-sector employer.

"The HST has dramatically tipped the playing field against restaurant operators. Their customers are spending less or diverting their spending to tax-free alternatives in grocery stores," says Mark von Schellwitz, CRFA's vice president, Western Canada. "It's time for government to step up and take action to help our members deal with a very tough transition to this new tax."

Despite receiving more than 200,000 signed petitions from restaurant industry owners, staff, and customers opposing a new meal tax, government has thus far not addressed their concerns.

The CRFA survey was conducted online between July 26 and 31, 2010. The findings represent 802 B.C. restaurants.



poor boy said...

The restaurant numbers do not surprise me at all - I am boycotting BC restaurants. Before the LIEberals made this vile tax grab, I would spend about $75 per month taking or dining out. Now, I spend zip, zero, nada.

I do the same for anything that has the vile tax grab newly imposed on it - I do not buy such items.

Anonymous said...

I find shopping a nightmare. I thought Hansen had sent out a pamphlet, to instruct what goods are HST applied. It has been over a month now, and they still can't get it right. Some stores, didn't even get Hansen's pamphlet. The stores are angry, the customers are furious. Some of us, don't shop at any business registered with the Chamber of Commerce. Supermarkets, really jacked their prices, way up just before the HST came through. I buy from the underground, and by fall, they say they will, be fully up and running. For a senior, on a small pension, the underground, is a lifesaver.

Stan Mortensen said...

I understand the frustration that poor boy is putting out there. The restaurants and their staff are not the villains in this drama. I would certainly encourage people to keep going to their favourite dining spot but perhaps look more closely at the menus to the lesser cost items, in part to get the message out but also to ensure that the hardworking staff are not overly penalized for something they have no control over.

Forgotten in this whole discussion is that there is a whole supply chain running from the producers/growers to the transportation network to distributors that are also affected by our spending decisions. Do we really want to create unemployment and/or farm/ranch failures?

I would encourage folks, like ourselves, who operate on a budget to stay within their budgets and look at where savings can be made on the dining out experience.

There are things that folks can do to up the pressure on the government on this issue like joining a political party, sending letters/emails to both government and opposition MLA's stating your opposition to the HST, get more involved in the "Fight HST" campaign, harass the call in shows. Basically find ways to keep the pressure on and to ensure Hansen, Campbell etal know this issue will not disipate over time. That is what they a hoping for and counting on.

Anonymous said...

and don't forget to harass he NDP on the issue since the BC Liberals will not get rid of the HST, it will be up to the NDP to do that.

They can do that immediately once they become goverment. All that takes is one Bill that removes the HST, passed by a majority vote.

Time from start to completion?

Less than the length of one sitting of the Legislature in time for the 2012 budget (assuming that Recall in the Fall does work).

All they have to do is introduce the legislation at the first sitting after they are elected, and
make it a priority. Can be passed in as little as four weeks.

They will be penalised for getting out before 2015, but the eariler the better, right?

and for those who figure they are doing right going to restaurants.

You're only hurting the restaurant owners and subsequently the staff, not really the BC Liberals. Less tables to serve mean cutbacks in staff time.

Fight HST is getting close to jumping the shark. TIme to move on to joining the NDP for the campaigns ahead in the by-elections caused by recall.

Heck, why doesn't Bill here run in a by-election? He's done everything else in politics.

DPL said...

Hansen was on TV today and he just seems to be mouthing the same old line. when asked about the mail out he told the person interviewing him that most of the information can still be used later. The guy is in way over his head.

poor boy said...

I know full well that my boycotting restaurants hurts them and their staff - THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT of my boycott. Going to restaurants and buying cheap items means that I would PAY THE HST, and I would PAY it to the LIEberals.

The BC Restaurant Association can bring a lot more pressure on the LIEberals than I can. The article Bill posted shows that many restaurants are hurting, and they will continue to hurt.

Also, please note that July 2009 was NOT a good year for the BC economy, and not at all for the restaurants. Being down compared to a bad July last year means they are REALLY hurting.

cherylb said...

Fight HST are not the only ones planning recall campaigns. Find out if one is being planned in your community and help them out! The best way to let Gordo and gang know we are not going to forget this huge lie is to help recall the MLA in your riding. Check recallinthefall.net for info as it becomes available. Be patient for the next month as it is hard to get anything going in the summer. But check back often.

Anonymous said...

I am one person who absolutely refuses to vote NDP when the recalls start, they HAVE NOT from the start come out with any statement that could be construed as stating that they intend to scrap this tax! Not even a rumor that they intend to scrap this tax. Absolutely NOT one single word that they intend to scrap this tax! The ONLY party that has is the BC Refederation Party which has my vote hands down!

Anonymous said...

Jock Finlayson, in a 'Special to the Sun' states: "British Columbians appear to be going about their business pretty much as they did before the implementation of the tax."

in related news
BC Liberal echo chamber revealed.

Anonymous said...

The Vancouver Sun just can't help itself - But it has no problem helping the BC Liberals.

Sun Editor-in-Chief Patricia Graham must have read that the HST pamphlets that the BC Liberals were going to spend millions of dollars distributing to all of us ignorant civilians were just sitting in a corner somewhere... How will the BC Liberals be able to get their message through to the great unwashed she wondered?

I know, said her meandering mind:

It looks like the corporate media's shrill shill is going through the list of the non-partisan Smart Tax Alliance and asking for 'special' contributions.

Yesterday it was Jock Finlayson from the Business Council of British Columbia; today we get Peter Leitch at the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of BC.

Great, 2 down and only 28 more of these facile fudge it factoids from the neocon droids... it is going to be a long summer.

Anonymous said...

HST blamed for dip in business confidence

Taxation, regulatory costs remain a big concern for B.C. companies

By Andrew A. Duffy, Times Colonist

The introduction of the harmonized sales tax is likely behind the slight drop in business confidence in this province, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Paul said...

Business was down 10 per cent on average in July during the HST’s first month of operation, compared with the same period last year, according to a survey by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Colin Hansen said he is not perturbed by the findings.

Colin Hansen: "I’ve made a point of talking to them, and, without exception, they told me they haven’t noticed any change in business."

Pinocchio's lackey is a sloppy liar.

If the restaurants really haven't noticed any change in business then they won't miss mine will they?

My sympathy for these restaurants ended with this listing from Elections BC.

Elections BC
Political Contributions System

Search Criteria = restaurant
Affiliation = BC Liberal Party
Total Contribution For This Search: $338,711.00

Go to the Elections BC Political Contributions System webpage.


PASTE "restaurant" (without the quotes) into the "Partial Contributor Name:" field.

Click on the search button at the bottom and observe how much love the BC Restaurant & Foodservices association has shown The BC Liberal Party over the years.

I refuse to empower liar Hansen or his boss Pinocchio by supporting these restaurants.

The Restaurant & Foodservices association knew that Campbell was a habitual liar when they once again publicly endorsed him last year, so they can take it and like it.

Paul said...

My apologies for the invalid link in my previous post.

I didn't realize that the link I posted would be truncated.

Go to the Elections BC Political Contributions System webpage.


PASTE "restaurant" (without the quotes) into the "Partial Contributor Name:" field.

Click on the search button at the bottom.

Anonymous said...

I read, that Canada's economy has taken another down turn. That is happening in Europe as well. There was some talk, some time back, there could be another recession. There are still no jobs. Mills have been sent to China, as well as our raw logs, so, in central and northern BC, our economy went to China. There have been no savings for the consumer, the HST has caused higher prices all around. The deal Campbell, Hansen and Harper made, is BC's HST, goes directly to Harper. The BC people, will have no benefit, from the HST at all. The big chains, have priced themselves, right out of the market. One loaf of bread, just under $5.00. Price gouging, is routine in BC. Food costs and gasoline, are the worst culprits.