Political leaders say no to HST

Wayne Thibodeau
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HUNTER RIVER - P.E.I.'s five political leaders have vowed not to implement a harmonized sales tax.

The HST, which rolls the GST and the PST into one tax, has been implemented in the rest of Atlantic Canada, Ontario and in British Columbia.

But outrage sparked by the decision to implement the HST in British Columbia forced a provincewide referendum last month. More than 54 per cent of British Columbians voted to scrap the HST.

B.C. is now beginning the transition back to a combined PST and GST.

Premier Robert Ghiz says he has no intention of implementing the HST unless the federal government is prepared to exempt a series of products that are already exempt of the PST in P.E.I. Those include electricity and home heating fuel.

"We're not bringing in any HST that's detrimental to Islanders," Ghiz told The Guardian.

"We're looking for tax cuts, not tax increases."

The P.E.I. government maintains implementing the HST would cut taxes for Prince Edward Island residents and would result in a reduction in income for the provincial government.

In February 2008, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said the implementation of the HST would result in the biggest tax cut in P.E.I. history, which would result in nearly $20 million in annual tax losses for provincial coffers.

Not everybody is against the idea of HST.

Business owners, tourism operators and farmers argue it would put them on a level playing field with their Atlantic counterparts.

The issue was raised during a leaders' debate hosted by the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island Thursday in Hunter River.

Thom MacMillan, president of the association, says his group will continue to push for HST in P.E.I. He said operators here are paying 10 per cent more than their mainland counterparts, which makes Island tourism operators less competitive.

"We're looking for tax cuts, not tax increases," Premier Robert Ghiz

"We're supporters of adopting HST in P.E.I., we always have been," he said.

"When the federal government comes to the table and has enough money on the table then maybe it will come forward."

PC Leader Olive Crane said her focus is on cutting the PST, not implementing the HST.

Her party promises to cut the PST from 10 to eight per cent, as long as economic conditions allow it.

"You all know I got kicked out of the legislature this spring for taking a stand in regards HST and secret negotiations that are ongoing," said Crane.

But Ghiz denied talks are ongoing to implement the HST.

"I'm not sure where this comes from but I have been involved in no secret negotiations whatsoever with regards to the HST."

Island Party Leader Billy Cann said it's bad policy to implement a tax increase during recessionary times.

NDP Leader James Rodd heard the various party responses but he wasn't convinced.

"Would you put it in writing that if you are elected and you form the government, would you say to Islanders ‘we will not implement the HST'?"

In an interview, both Ghiz and Crane said they would make that commitment in writing.

Ghiz said if the federal government did exempt electricity and home heating fuel, he might consider the HST.

"Because then everything across the board would be cheaper."

Twitter.com/GuardianWayne

Organizations: The Guardian, Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island, Island Party

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Atlantic Canada Ontario Hunter River

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Recent comments

  • HST is good for us all
    September 09, 2011 - 09:16

    Just moved to PEI form a HST province. If you take everything over a course of a year that you currently pay taxes on..Add it all up....and then take a HST and apply it to the same exspences over the course of the year....You will be surprised to know....IT IS A TAX REDUCTION... Islanders and Politicians should not put blinders on and say no to HST....Islanders want to save tax dollars...PEI Govt wants to keep the tax coffers fuller. Think it thru...the politicians are not.. Knee jerk reactions are not the best option

  • ROLLOVER
    September 09, 2011 - 09:01

    I am voting PC anyway. I did not need this PST promise but I believe it can be afforded and would help our staggering local economy. Yes it can be afforded. Not by Ghiz obviously. He has no accountability framework to control and explain spending. He has spent dozens of millions on politically motivated projects. Crane can afford it because she is putting an accountability framework up front and centre and does not have a huge political IOU list like Ghiz obviously does. That's the difference here, folks. Look at what is true and you will know what to do. Vote PC on October 3rd.

  • John MacInnis
    September 09, 2011 - 08:36

    Paying tax on tax is the theme of the diabolical HST, and although I'm very pleased that the Libs and PCs are promising not to implement the tax (the Green, NDP and Island party numbers make all three hardly worthy of mention), I'm still trying to discern the difference is between the Libs and PCs, and although The PC idea of a one per cent PST reduction is vote material,it would have been nice if Crane included a prospective spending cut with that particular campaign promise.

  • myislandhome
    September 09, 2011 - 07:41

    @GO OLIVE Are you kidding??? You must be being sarcastic. You think that Olive and the PC Party can cut the PST by 2%, and we won't all suffer? Sure, you might save 25 cents every time you go to the grocery store, but the net loss of funding for provincial services and jobs will be CATASTROPHIC to the Island economy and our well-being. Olive stated herself that she doesn't know what impact dropping the PST would have on the provincial budget. If she did some research, I think she'd retract her promise pretty quickly.

  • hmatthewl
    September 09, 2011 - 07:16

    The Premier did not say NO..he said the Feds will not give him what he wants right now. That does not mean NO,,so why would the Guardian print something that is not completely true? Oh my God, after I wrote what is above, I looked to see who wrote the articile..now it all ,makes sense.

  • upwest proud
    September 09, 2011 - 06:19

    Ghiz said if the federal government did exempt electricity and home heating fuel, he might consider the HST..........after spending a half hour denying he would bring in the HST, Ghiz concludes with this statement. This is "double speak" at its worst, unbelievable

  • Greeneyed Monster
    September 09, 2011 - 06:08

    Ghiz isn't working a GST deal with the Feds but he doesn't like the deal they've discussed so far! I love watching Ghiz talk out of the side of his mouth. Something he learned delivering coffee to the PMO. Expect more of the same@

  • sad
    September 09, 2011 - 05:36

    look at the liberals as soon has Olive said she was going to cut pst they came right behind her the liberals dont have a clue go olive you CAN DO IT

  • I PROMISE FINGERS CROSSED
    September 09, 2011 - 05:09

    who is stupid enough to believe any of this ??????????????????? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ V O T E R B E W A R E~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • Ken in Victoria BC
    September 09, 2011 - 01:21

    As all Canadians know the gentle votes in BC rejected the HST baby. My opinion is that Sales Tax policy should remain with the province. Why allow BIG brother in Ottawa dictate what is the be taxed. Also, by allowing this power to the Feds, will they not be looking for more power. Uneven Steven can not be trusted. He is a control devil and will screw the provinces in the end. His majority of 40% will ruin Canada. All gentle and kissable PEI ers do not be lead down the garden path. Thank you, I have see the destruction of the baby we call Hated Sales Tax.

  • Go Olive
    September 08, 2011 - 21:42

    Olive has the best plan on taxes!

    • Fanshaw
      September 09, 2011 - 06:28

      I thought Mrs. Crane might come up with some ideas. But she nags about financial integrity and wants to buy my vote. Very disappointing.