B.C. may offer more breaks on HST

The B.C. government is spending $1.7 million to finance a province-wide debate on the harmonized sales tax, and will consider offering changes to it before a mail-in referendum is held in June and July.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced the funding in Vancouver Thursday. He said one possibility would be offering to reduce the rate on the provincial portion of the tax, if the public wants that and if it can be done without upsetting the plan to balance the provincial budget.

“I want to make sure that government is committed to a position of improving the HST prior to the vote being made on June 24,” Falcon said.

The province is restricted by its agreement with the federal government that combines the former seven-per-cent provincial sales tax with the five-per-cent federal goods and services tax. That agreement requires the current seven per cent provincial portion of the HST to remain as is until July 2012, but Falcon said if B.C. taxpayers want it changed sooner, he would discuss that with Ottawa.

The B.C. government could also offer further provincial rebates to offset the HST on such things as sports programs, Falcon said. Rebates already apply to gasoline and home energy use in B.C.

The funding includes $500,000 to be divided between the “yes” and “no” campaigns. Former B.C. ombudsman and MP Stephen Owen has been appointed to administer the fund and decide who qualifies to receive a share.

There will be a mail-out to all residents of B.C., including submissions arguing for and against keeping the harmonized tax. A series of town hall meetings will be held at universities and colleges where people can debate the merits of the two tax systems.

The government plans to start sending out mail-in ballots in mid-June, and they must be received by Elections BC no later than July 22. It will be August before the results are known, and the government knows whether to keep the HST or negotiate an end to it with the federal government.

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST organization, which forced a referendum with a petition last year, released a study last week making a case to reject the HST. Fight HST argues that provinces with HST have higher unemployment and inflation than those that don’t.

The finance ministry countered that low unemployment in Alberta and Saskatchewan is due to their booming resource sectors, not their sales tax systems. It cited reports by the Bank of Canada and others that say the HST “will likely result in a small, one-time increase in the Consumer Price Index.”

The B.C. government has set up a website for HST information here.

Just Posted

Short-term rentals could be allowed in Lake Country by next week

A bylaw for short-term rentals will be up for adoption during Tuesday’s council meeting

Central Okanagan firefighters are battling wildfires across B.C.

Lake Country, Kelowna and Peachland crews are assisting the BC Wildfire Service

Traffic delays expected for up to 40 minutes along Lake Country road

Paving is taking place along Pelmewash Parkway

The Hillside Outlaws compete to play Denim on the Diamond

The Penticton based band are bringing their country music to Kelowna

45 people to be left on the streets after shelter’s closure, says nonprofit

Inn from the Cold is trying to house 45 residents after it’s closure in Kelowna

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

Altidore nets 3 as Toronto drubs Whitecaps 5-2

Vancouver falls 7-4 on aggregate in Canadian Championship final

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

Pinecrest Lake is located between Whistler and Squamish

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Chinese medicine practitioner in B.C. facing historical sex assault charges

71-year old Kit Wong practiced acupuncture from his home during the time of the assaults

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Wildfires converge near Mabel Lake in Lumby

Area restrictions expanded in Lumby and Cherryville

Most Read