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The HST Referendum

Your pockets, your choice



You have an important choice to make by July 22.

By that date, the Province of British Columbia will ask you, the consumer, how it should go about taxing the money you spend.

Referendums, which put the decision directly in the hands of the people, don't come that often. This is a chance for you to decide the future of tax in this province.

The mail-in ballot, which are now in the mail to corridor residents, will pose the question: "Yes/No: Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)?"

A "yes" result will mean that the current 12 per cent HST on goods and services will be replaced by a PST/GST system, which applies a 12 per cent tax on most products and only a five per cent tax to others.  It is uncertain how this new tax will be administered.

A "no" result will mean you support the HST, which came into effect last summer, and nothing will change as far as taxing the consumer.

The choice is yours... but do you really know what's being asked of you?




A "Yes" result means that we go back to the PST system, which could be more accurately called "GST/sometimes PST."

Under the PST system, the price of a winter lift ticket in Whistler would have been $99.75 including taxes. Under HST it's $106.40. Under PST the price of a Zog's dog was $4.62. Under HST it's $5. With PST in place, a Ziptrek Eagle Tour adult ticket would cost $135.45. With HST it costs $144.48.

All of those services were PST exempt, and, as such, only the five per cent GST applied, effectively making them cheaper for people to buy.

The PST system set out a cavalcade of exemptions. It would exclude anything that wasn't "tangible personal property," or what you could see, weigh, measure or touch, and that wasn't specifically exempted in the Act.

Other exemptions included restaurant meals; soda pop; chips; bicycles; smoke alarms; gym passes; MP3 downloads.

In a place like Whistler, where so much of the economy depends on tourism, a tax that applies to non-tangible property created understandable concern.

Shortly before the HST was implemented in July 2010, Whistler Blackcomb CEO Dave Brownlie told Pique in an email that HST is "simply bad for tourism" because, for his company, it will apply to items such as lift tickets and meals. When asked to comment for this feature he deferred to Tourism Whistler.