B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, a former doctor, doffs his facemask in the medical fashion before a campaign announcement in Vancouver, Sept. 26. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

When former prime minister Stephen Harper campaigned in 2005 to cut the federal Goods and Services Tax from seven per cent to five, it was popular with voters but not with most economists.

In 2009, former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell emphasized the benefits of shifting from income to sales taxes with an effort to join Canada’s harmonized sales tax (HST). It extended sales tax to more services, while relieving the layers of sales tax from business investment. That backfired with a successful petition against the HST that forced B.C. to restore the seven-per-cent provincial sales tax (PST) and repay a $1.6 billion federal transition fund, pushing B.C. into deficit for 2012.

Now B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is taking the Harper approach, but only temporarily to provide at least a two-year boost to consumer spending as the economy struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilkinson has proposed cutting the current provincial sales tax to zero for a year after the Oct. 24 election, and then bringing it back at only three per cent for the following year.

“Eliminating PST puts more money in people’s pockets, stimulates growth for struggling small business, and helps British Columbians who are struggling to get by,” Wilkinson said Sept. 28.

The party estimates the province would miss out on $6.88 billion in PST revenue in year one, and another $3.93 billion when the tax resumes at the three-per-cent rate. That would take the province’s deficit closer to $20 billion, with no end in sight to the pandemic’s economic slump and extra health spending demands.

RELATED: NDP’S ‘Neflix tax’ a surprise move for 2020 budget

RELATED: B.C. to add sales tax for sweetened soda drinks

The NDP government has done its own PST changes in its three years of minority government. It raised the PST to 20 per cent on vaping products last year, and in 2018 it hiked PST on high-end vehicles, from 10 per cent to 15 per cent on new or used vehicles costing $125,000 to $149,999. For vehicles costing $150,000 and up, the PST went to 20 per cent.

The B.C. Liberals say their temporary PST cuts would not apply to tobacco, vaping products or high-end vehicles. Cannabis would also continue to be subject to seven-per-cent PST, in addition to the province’s 15 per cent wholesale markup and federal GST on top of all that.

The party has not said whether its PST holiday would extend to gasoline and other fuels, already subject to federal and provincial fuel tax, carbon tax and federal and provincial sales taxes.

Before the sudden election call, former finance minister Carole James put off planned tax changes, including the end of a PST exemption for sweetened carbonated beverages. That is now to take effect April 2021, along with new PST registration and collection requirements for e-commerce businesses located outside B.C.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students across B.C. vote in a BC NDP majority government. (Student Vote B.C.)
Local students elect a BC NDP majority government

Penticton students elect NDP Toni Boot, with Green’s Ted Shumaker close behind

Incumbent B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton watching results come in on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Incumbent Dan Ashton heading towards third term in Penticton

Ashton was first elected to the legislature in 2013

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Most Read