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

Choir leader’s selfless work wins her Castlegar Citizen of the Year

Christina Nolan has grown the community choir into a strong and vibrant asset for the city

Water main maintenance ongoing in South Castlegar and Blueberry

Project will take two weeks — city says there should not be any service disruptions

Downtown businesses want you to love them this weekend

Third annual event encourages people to shop in their own community.

Police investigating man’s death in Winlaw

Foul play not established, but major crimes unit is investigating

Grand Forks woman assaulted in home invasion

The incident took place Wednesday morning

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Kootenay man arrested and charged in 2015 murder

Nathaniel Jessup 32 of Creston has been charged with the second-degree murder of Katherine McAdam and offering an indignity to a body.

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

GALLERY: First responders in Fernie return baby owl to its nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

Most Read