Published on September 08, 2011
Sharon Labchuk, leader of the P.E.I. Green Party, and James Rodd, right, leader of the Island NDP, listen as Premier Robert Ghiz speaks during a debate in Harmony House in Hunter River Thursday moring. Leaders of all the parties participated in the debate.
Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Published on September 08, 2011
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."