Due to well-publicized hyperbole from pro- and anti-HST factions, deciding on which tax system is best for you as an individual, you as an employee and you as a business owner has required something akin to a specialized degree in tax policy. To clarify the benefits of keeping the HST in place, Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce - the boards of each have voted to support the HST - held a sparsely attended information session at the Whistler Conference Centre the morning of Wednesday, July 27.
After inconsistent and inefficient business experience with the PST, guest speaker Mike Jagger, owner of Provident Security and an involved participant in the campaign to keep the HST, started collecting data from other small business owners on how they were affected by the HST and PST. To publicize the data and promote better public understanding he started a website - supporthst.ca and got involved with the Smart Tax Alliance.
"I felt it was important because people weren't trusting the government and (anti-HST advocate Bill) Vander Zalm was lying..." he said. "...What we're faced with is a vote on whether we want to go forward or go backwards and in my view there is no comparison. The PST was crazy; it's just a series of loopholes built with exceptions on top of it. The HST is applied much more fairly, it's much more transparent and we don't have a choice to pay tax or not pay tax, the choice is how we want to do it."
Though the tourism sector was initially opposed to the HST, analysis by Stephen Regan of the Council of Tourism Associations of British Columbia (COTA) has led to a change of heart.
"We got zip, zero, zilch information from the government on what analysis they did to understand the level of impact on various sectors and sub industries. We had to do the best we could with the networks we had," he said.
To understand the impacts and help transition their sector into an HST environment, COTA compiled a report looking at how the HST affected various sectors.
"...At the end of the day we weighed all the factors and a lot of our businesses are saying a good economy is good for our businesses and if COTA BC is to take the long view, HST at 10 per cent is better than going back."
The referendum on HST closes on Aug 5, 2011.