The Facts and the Arguments for and Against the BC HST: A must read for British Columbians before the referendum

Credibility (or Lack Thereof)

There is a lot of feamongering being propagated in this debate and it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction – or at the very lest – fact from misleading information. Former Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm and others leading the fight against the HST in the upcoming referendum have made arguments that are not based on facts.

Mr. Vander Zalm and his supporters run the where you will find a study called “The Truth About the HST”.
It is perhaps the most popular anti-HST paper. A charitable interpretation of the erroneous and misleading statements contained in this paper is that the authors have been very liberal with the truth: it is filled with inconsistencies and information that has been twisted, fabricated or taken out of context. To point out just one example, number 10 on a long list of reasons to vote NO provided in the paper is that “The HST hurts families, seniors and low-income people the most”. In this section, the author quotes a Centre for Canadian Alternatives Study titled “The Impact of HST on Ontario and British Columbia Households” by David Murrell, Ph.D.

The paper quotes the study as saying “The HST is a pure tax increase and is regressive.” In fact, the study contains no such quote. See for yourself, we’ve provided a link Here is what the study ACTUALLY says “For both provinces, the pure HST tax credit is regressive: it impacts low-income households far greater than high income households. But the accompanying income tax cuts are very progressive, such that on balance the net impact is moderately progressive – from the poorest households to upper middle-class families.”

Not only did the author of the widely distributed paper fabricate the quote but also deliberately misused the statement. The spirit of what was being said was exactly the opposite of what the “Fight the HST” paper was saying – an they were using it to support their argument! That is just one example of the dishonesty contained in the paper. There are many, many more examples and examining every single one would run down your patience.

Here are some of the main arguments made by the Mr. Vander Zalm and other who are leading the “Fight the HST” campaign.

Top Five HST Myths Propagated by the Fight the HST campaign

1. The HST takes from the people least able to pay it, such as senior, students, and working families.
• In fact, the BC government’s analysis performed before the new tax cutting measures and rebates showed that after the offsetting income tax reduction measures associated with the introduction of the HST, the poorest 20% of the population will be $193 better off after implementation of the tax; the second-poorest 20% are pretty much even, and only the richer segments will be paying slightly more overall. This statement was never true and is even less so now that new measures have been introduced.

2. The HST is an additional tax.
• In fact, the HST is a replacement tax. It replaces a hidden, layered compounding and unaccountable tax that cost consumers at every level of the value chain with a visible one-time tax that reduces costs throughout the production of goods and the provision of services. It is therefore more accountable to people, who can see how much they are paying now. Before, there was almost no way to know how much hidden PST you were paying.

3. The HST kills jobs and hurts the economy. Alberta doesn’t have an HST and look how many jobs it creates.
• The opposite has turned out to be the case wherever it has been implemented.
• Alberta has oil.

4. Government rebates are not high enough to offset the extra cost of the HST.
• The rebates apply to items that were previously PST-exempt, the only extra costs involved. Now that the has committed to reducing the HST by two points within three years and to a new set of transition rebates, the average family will be better off by $120. If, however, the HST is voted down, the PST will portion will remain the same and there will be a 3 billion dollar gap in the budget that COULD require tax hikes.

5. The HST threatens provincial sovereignty and democracy itself.
• It’s true that because it will now be an integrated system, rate changes will have to be discussed with the federal government before applying them. Other provinces which have implemented the HST have never found this to be a problem. The biggest threat to democracy is an ill-informed electorate.

It’s easier to shout slogans than to understand a complicated reality. Make up your own mind about the HST—but look at the actual facts first. Here are some studies to read if you want more in-depth information.


With such a sharply split vote, no matter which way it goes, it will be divisive. Let’s hope that by the time the vote is counted, people will actually know the difference between Yes and No, and what their vote means, so that the end result is what they actually wanted.

keywords: GST, taxes, poverty, income