rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

To HST or not to HST

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The campaign to save the HST is rather shameless, not to mention bad public policy. We won't, as HST spin masters would have it, pay less tax with the new and improved HST. The amount of tax we collectively pay depends on the amount of services and support government provides - total government spending- not the manner in which taxes are paid.

True, different types of taxes affect people differently and the fairness of different tax policies is a valid concern. But don't tell me we are going to pay less overall by instituting one tax as opposed another. It is a silly reason to support of the HST in the same way that it was a silly reason to support the ‘revenue-negative' carbon tax.

In any case, by almost any sensible measure we need more, not less public investment. So let's not try to figure out how to pay less; we need to think about the most efficient and equitable ways to pay more.

Which brings me to the HST vs PST quandary we currently face. There is no question that the manner in which the HST was introduced was duplicitous, and that there is little reason to trust the government's latest plan to to make it more equitable between households and business in the future. But those are reasons for voting for a change in government, not to restore the PST.

The fact is, despite all the good arguments of my old school mate David Schreck, the PST is an inefficient tax. There is the obvious duplication of tax collection and payment with the our very own PST. And there is the more subtle, but still significant problem of charging sales tax on goods whose prices already include sales tax paid on the B.C. materials they use -- an economically distorting tax on tax.

There is as well the impact of the narrower tax base of the PST as compared to the HST. Whatever is taxed has to be taxed a lot more to make up for everything that isn't taxed, without any consistent reasoning or principle determining why some things we consume should be taxed and others should not. I like to go out to eat, but I can't understand why government should treat that more favourably than buying tools or clothes.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no great lover of the HST. If someone wants to implement higher energy prices, natural resource royalties, congestion charges, solid waste fees -- a serious effort to capture resource rents and to tax environmental and social costs -- I am all for it. There are better alternatives. But going back to the PST is not one of them.

So I can't see voting ‘yes' (meaning ‘no') in the upcoming referendum. And that is not because of the silly ‘lower tax' argument being made in defence of the HST. It is because the HST is better than what we are being asked to go back to.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.