Tag Archives: GST

HST: One Week In & How It Affects the Little Guy

The provincial government’s disregard for the overwhelming dissent over the HST is no surprise. After all, Campbell has disregard the public in many ways since he took office, arrogantly being above the law even in his drunk driving charge. Let’s not get into all the politics but his minions…I mean ministers, have touted the HST and are now trying to tell us how good it will be, how it will create jobs, how it won’t affect the common person very much at all. So, let’s take a look at how it has affected me in one week.

  • I bought a bottle of wine at the liquor store. The liquor tax is gone and that was 10% but the HST is on there with 12%
  • I went out for dinner with friends. Whereas that used to have the liquor tax of 10% on the alcohol and the GST of 5% on the food, there is now 12% tax overall. I’m not sure I can figure out all the math but that means there is now 7% more tax on food and 2% more tax on alcohol.
  • I worked out at the gym. Whereas that just had GST before, it now has HST, an increase of 7% in taxes.
  • I bought a chocolate bar. This used to have 5% on it but now has HST of 12%. I am firmly opposed to any tax on food, whether it’s a luxury item or junk food because it says only the rich get to eat cake. I guess we could call Harper’s government the Marie Antoinette of era. I just wonder when we can lop off the head.
  • I pay for parking at my job. Now this one is the killer. TransLink, an arm of the provincial government upped all parking taxes (whether monthly parking, part of your apartment, on the street or at your job) from 7% to 21%. They said they weren’t raising the PST because that didn’t stand for provincial sales tax; it stood for parking sales tax, but still an increase of 14% on January 1st. Well, guess what, there are other hidden taxes, plus HST and someone I know who works in the business says that taxes on parking anywhere are now 35.5%! How’s that for a hefty hidden extra tax. If you pay $5 for an hour of parking it will cost you $6.78. Now multiply that by your monthly rate. If you pay $100, with taxes you pay $135.50.

This is just one week’s worth of taxes going up. I’m really really waiting for the provincial government to convince me on how it won’t affect me much and actually bring in jobs. They say it but they don’t say how or where. I’d love to hear how other average people are being affected by this.

Update September: You’ll pay more for postage in BC because of the HST. That’s Canadian postage, which should be the same price across Canada but it isn’t. Candy and other food that hits some esoteric guideline; it’s now double taxed. Keys…need one cut, you’ll now pay more in GST. Did I mention that parking in Greater Vancouver is taxed with 35% taxes? Can’t figure it out; ask your government how PST and GST equals that rate.

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HST? May Be Your Friend

It may be your friend, but not mine. I’m listening to BC’s Minister Colin Hansen giving a good impression of double-speak right now on the radio. When one woman asked him exactly how she was going to save if the industries like mining were for the HST he said how much savings would be passed on to other businesses. Wow. So that’s how that woman is going to save. Just like we all saved and saw prices drop when the GST was put in. Nope. We didn’t.

He likes to say that they’re removing the PST (7%) and putting on the HST (12%), and tries to make it sound like they’re doing us a favor. Food that is now exempt from GST will continue to be but he doesn’t say that food now being taxed (cookies, chips, chocolate bars; those items considered “luxury” items and therefore not for the poor to afford) will now have 12% instead of 5%. A $1 chocolate bar would have cost you $1.05 but will now cost $1.12. Not much but when you start adding up other items it will get costly.

Like buying a new home. Like going to the gym. I now will have to pay both GST and PST (oops sorry, that means I’m only paying HST not two taxes but it equals two taxes) to go to the no-frills community gym.

For restaurants, the minister said a provincial consumption tax is charged in other restaurants but BC and Saskatchewan. So, what does this mean? We’re not being taxed enough so should get more taxes and that justifies the HST. When the GST came in it was supposed to cancel all those other taxes but there has always been the alcohol tax at 10% on your restaurant bill, plus that 7% PST. Or was it GST. Has anyone been able to track how many ways our government taxes us?

The provincial government that Hansen represents plans to be generous now with that new HST coming in onto the  restaurants. They’re so generous they’re lowering the alcohol tax from 10% to 7%; and don’t forget you’ll not be paying 5% on food now but 12%. Plus it’s unclear if we’re paying 12% on alcohol plus 7%. If so, that nearly 20% on top of the cost of alcohol. But let’s say it’s just the one tax on booze and the one super, mega lumped together tax on food. What we have is 12% plus 7% so it’s still 19% plus 15% tips added so you’re looking at a minimum of 34% on top of your dinner, making a bill of $50 going to cost you $17 for a total of $67. But that’s only if taxes aren’t doubled on the booze. If it is, then we’re looking at 19% tax on booze, plus 15% tax on food plus 15% tip on all of that. I wonder how many people are walking around with accountants in their pockets so that they can figure out how much they ow on a bill.

Though Hansen claimed it will affect very few things, and somehow could not name how we would have any savings, he did say that about 25% of British Columbians will get HST cheques that will equal what, $30 per person? I think? I hope I misheard because it will cost more than that in a couple of months. So that’s the low and “some” middle income people, as he said. But not everyone, not most of us.

Consider that every year we have to calculate our income tax and it’s taken off  of our paychecks so most people pay between 20-30% taxes on what they make. But that’s not enough so now we get to pay at least another 15% tax on things we buy. How will this immediately affect you and me? Good question. The government and Colin Hansen have couched so much in doublespeak that it’s not clear. But I can tell you that I’ll be hit the next time I buy a gym pass, when I go to a restaurant, should I buy a cake or a pie, or a new home. Will liquor in liquor stores go down if the alcohol tax is being lowered? I’m kind of doubting it.

I’d love to hear how we will save so much money. When did a tax ever give the working person more money? And I would love to know how they see this as generating new jobs, except for those counting the coffers for the government. And this coming from a government that hasn’t raised the minimum wage in 9 years, and has one of the lowest in the country.

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There is No Harmonization to Campbell’s New Tax

Gordon Campbell’s two-faced Liberals want to bring in a tax that they say they had no idea about three months ago. If this is in fact true I’d have to say this party is pretty poor in long-term planning. Long-term planning that raised and then took off a half percent on our PST (2004). Poor planning in giving everyone a pre-election bribe of $100. Poor planning in the Olympics, embroiling our tax dollars into it, and then going, oh gosh it’s overbudget. I could have told them this three years ago.

Was ever a word so misused as to take two taxes and call it harmonization? GST, the government tax, covers many things but not food (unless you’re buying a bag of nachos or cookies because the government decided that was unnecessary. Oh and you can buy two cookies and pay GST but not if you buy six, unless it’s a bag, like a bulk thing. If you figure this out, let me know, but the feds have been taxing our food choices for a long time.) So GST hits many things.

And then there’s PST, the provinicial sales tax. It also hits some things but not always the same things as the GST. Some of the items usually exempt are books, children’s clothing and footwear, vitamins, dietary supplements and food for human consumption. But if you’re at a restaurant that food is charged GST because it’s a service, I think. It’s never made a lot of sense.  Here is a list of what is currently PST exempt (not a full list) but will possibly have the HST on them: PSTexemptions

One glib quote by the Tourism Minister was: “The HST is going to be good for all concerned, but there are going to be exceptions,” intoned B.C. Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger. (seattlepi.com) Hmm, good for all but there are exceptions, like every consumer out there. Basically you and me, unless you’re big business. And one minister said something like, all the provinces have done this HST, except that Alberta, NWT, Yukon and Nunavut have no provincial tax. Only New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have an HST. That is hardly all of the other provinces by far. And remember, we pay these taxes as we buy things and then when we do income tax we pay federal and provincial tax at that time as well.

Facebook already has over 100,000 members protesting the NO BC HST. A recent poll puts people opposing the HST at 87%. How does the government think this is fair when it’s not even an extra percent we’ll be paying on many items (which include such things as condo fees). It’s not even 5% more, the rate of the GST, which would be exorbitant. It’s 7%, which is more than double. Imagine going out for dinner and you know how a bill for $60 often has an extra $10 of tax on it? Well, that will be now an extra $20 in tax. Will I be going out as much? No. And the same will happen to many people. Or they’ll go out an pay less in tips because of the extra cost. This will of course impact the restaurant and entertainment industry, where people will then be laid off because business has slowed.

Those exempt school books and kids’s clothes? No more. It’s already a shame that we have tax on books and food in any form but you’ll probably not be buying a bag of chips when you’re paying 12% on the price of the bag. Because the government has given warning but not bothered to discuss this first, there is huge backlash. And really what is the reasoning for increasing our taxes by 7% on things? Deficit. Campbell screwed up.

I can’t even get into the fiasco of the Olympics and how so many things weren’t reported on and budgets were not revealed. How many aspects are costing waaay more than anticipated (because they didn’t want to shock the taxpayers)? The City of Vancouver raised the price of their city parking as a way to gather more revenue for their part of the Olympics. Campbell, well he’s not admitting he screwed up, but he’ll just charge us extra so he can pay off the Olympic deficit.

If you want to pay more, sit back and be harmonized. If not, then do everything you can. Complain, contact your MLA and MP. Writer letters. But if you think the protests and petitions will change the tune that Campbell is singing, think again. When he made massive cuts in his first reign, there were 40,000+ people who protested in person, and Campbell just continued scything through jobs. And lest people forget, he tore up union contracts of hospital workers, subsequently causing the cleanliness of hospitals to deteriorate more, and was found by the courts to be in the wrong, but that was years later, even if those people had to be compensated. He probably saved himself a few bucks doing that.

So, I’m just saying, Campbell is very close to all those dictators, who do what they want, trumping it up as “good for the people who don’t know what’s good for them”. And even if the people protest vehemently, it will make no difference. Just watch and see.

Oh and if you didn’t vote in the last election, no matter what you voted, then it’s your fault. With 50% voter turnout it could have changed things, or maybe not. But if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain because you didn’t try and do anything about it.

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Political Name Changes: A Rose By Any Name

Or perhaps never a rose. It could be a stinking weed or even a better flower. The NDP (New Democratic Party) of Canada is looking at changing their name and dropping the “New.” One reason stated is that people who are newer to Canada (and maybe those not so new) see the “New” and think that the party hasn’t been around very long, and is less experienced.

Fair enough, and it’s not the first time the NDP have gone through a transition. Its roots are in two parties, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Co-operative Commonwealth Foundation, which joined together to form the National Committee for the New Party (known for a while as the New Party). That party became the NDP with Tommy Douglas as its first leader.

It’s not bad for any political party to re-evaluate where its going, what its mandate is and is it serving the needs of the people. Of course, once you have more than a small handful of people you will get differing needs and views. (Heck, even if you have two people that can happen.)

The Progressive Conservatives went through a split where the right of center PCs spawned the Reform Party of Canada. This happened after Brian Mulroney drove the party into the ground, setting up Kim Campbell to be the fall guy (or gal) for the party that was nearly voted out of existence. Mulroney’s arrogance and his implementation of the GST and the controversial Free Trade Agreement (seen as selling away some of Canada’s rights to the US) left the federal party with only two seats in the next election.

The Reform offspring, a farther right-wing, extreme conservative party then became known as the Canadian Alliance after the unfortunate name of the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party (or CRAP for short). They were known for being narrow-minded and members were caught several times saying racist and sexist remarks. So in a big sellout the Reform party merged back with the PCs, causing many long time Conservative members (such as former prime minister Joe Clark) to leave the party in disgust.

That’s our Conservative party today, cloaked again with the respectable Conservative name but still more right of where the PCs were yet not as red as the Reform was. But Harper’s disinterest in helping anyone of color or of a nonChristian religion, even if they are Canadian citizens has been noted by the press. (such as Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan but not charged with anything) One could say it is the government but Harper likes to keep a stranglehold on his ministers.

So, in that case, the name change for the Reform didn’t work but merging back into the Conservatives did. Will it work for the NDP? That depends. Often what happens when a party renames itself is that it also looks at its mandates, its policies and its platform. If the NDP doesn’t do an in-depth examination, then a name change probably won’t do much for them in the polls and they’ll continue to be third runner up in federal politics.

As I’ve said before, Canada’s political parties don’t have very charismatic leaders at present. I’ve heard from an experienced ex-politician that he liked Jack Layton until he met him. I also listened to several people talking this weekend at a party about the NDP. Layton at some point had been in town for a photo op with guards and press. It blocked the way to a local store (selling roleplaying games I believe). Because it took so long when they were packing up this one guy was saying that Layton could have gone into the store and shook a few hands because the nerds (his word not mine) were waiting to go in. And then they would have probably blogged about it. But Layton missed an opportunity.

Layton comes from a long family history of politicians and a has a PhD in political science so he should know his stuff. However, he comes across as arrogant, and he’s not the only political leader who does. It certainly didn’t serve Stockwell Day or Brian Mulroney that well with many people. Like Preston Manning before him, it could be Layton also needs a makeover. Not even gay men wear moustaches like that anymore: only policemen. But it’s attitude and party politics that will need to change most of all to bring the party out of third place in the race. Politicians should try being genuine and talk more with the common people.

If the NDP are not going to be new democrats anymore but democrats with seasoning and experience, then the party has to grow up all around. Perhaps at the NDP convention the name change will come with a new leader but if they change the leader they better throw smarts and charisma into the package. Oh and clearly stating their platform and sticking to their guns. If not, the NDP, or the Democratic Party, will continue to bring up the rear, even if the other two choices aren’t much better.

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Politics: Freedom to Choose

Originally this was published in the online magazine called Fearsmag.com. The magazine didn’t last long due to the withdrawal of funds by the benefactor during the dot.com crunch. I was an editorial writer and took a look at different fears to write about each month. This was the December column for 2000 but it’s appropriate now.

Christmas or politics? Christmas? Politics? Agh, the indecision nearly froze my fingers on the keyboards, sort of like choosing which candidate to vote for. Well, I decided that Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/your favorite winter festivity happens once a year but this unique political picture forming in Canada and the US happens but once.

            I’m not going to go into great detail on the buffoonery, the conniving, the shiftiness, the lying or even the successes of the candidates. I’m going to dig around in that really nasty cesspit of the fears we have about our politics.

            On the lighter side, we are lucky; we all have the right to vote and with some degree of democracy, with all its requisite odors and flavors per country. That’s good. I’ve had nightmares about a future where we were all enslaved, fighting for our rights and freedom from aliens or dictators and bigots. Freedom fighting has been a popular theme ever since our ancestors climbed out of the trees and pretended they were civilized. Freedom is the integral right of the individual, though ask a handful of people on the street and what freedom actually means will be quite different from one to the other. UPN’s new show Freedom is just about that; the US president is shot and the good guys fight the military regime that’s restored order to a rioting USA.

            Now I’m Canadian but close enough to the border that half my friends are from the USA. I’ve heard enough about the politics to get an idea of what people think, at least the West Coast. Freedom in the US election meant choosing between two leaders with as much personality and flavor as cold spaghetti without the sauce. Clinton, even if he was careless enough to let his private predilections fall under the White House spotlight, has lots of personality. Many people told me they were afraid of the old world, right wing, knee jerk politics that Bush represented. Some even said old Bush senior had at least been a statesman but Jr. hasn’t lived up to that image. He represents to many a redneck, narrow-minded conservatism.

            Well if you don’t want Bush you have well, er, um Gore, (Gore actually became stronger and better known after the election.) not exactly someone of scintillating mien. Many people liked what Nadar stood for but were afraid that if they cast their votes for his determination to launder the old political baggage that they would be tossing their vote away and letting Bush in. There you see the freedom to choose but fearing to choose what your heart says is right.

            And what bigger fear could we have than that our democracy is but a sham, that computers are being fixed with ballot tallies, that authorities are delaying folks long enough that the polls close, that ballots are confusing, that information is leaked to media sources before it should. It would make a great conspiracy movie or perhaps, it’s the truth.

            Now let’s look at the other half of the coin. (I know little of Mexican politics but have heard that el presidente Fox is somewhat right of center.) Here in Canada our election just happened. The ruling party, the Liberals spent eight years in office and curbed the National debt, but at the expense of human welfare and lives. There have been issues like the APEC rally and the loss of freedom of speech and civil liberties. The Bloc Quebecois only cares for one province and not at all for the rest of Canada, yet because of population alone always stands a chance of being the government. I fear that if the Bloc won, Canada would be a country no more.

            Then there’s the Conservative party, which used to be strong and either the governing party or the official opposition. After Brian Mulroney’s heavy-handed bludgeoning of the country the Conservatives dive-bombed all but out of sight. Like the proverbial phoenix, they’ve been trying to resurrect themselves from the scathing ashes that many remember and which gave us the hated GST (goods & services tax or better known as the gouge and screw tax). However, this phoenix is still small with but a few feathers and not a contender.

            The NDP (New Democratic Party) could stand a chance if they had a stronger leader and weren’t willing to completely blow the national budget with wholesale spending. Then there’s the Reform party, renamed the Canadian Alliance party. (The Reform nee Alliance party congealed back into the Conservative party, like  a phoenix, but containing more right-wing thinkers.)  They booted their founding leader Preston Manning out just a few months ago and put in the younger stronger Stockwell Day. Day and his party have stuck their feet in their mouths in the past, stating they’re not so far right wing that if they were a bird it would never get off the ground. (Day would have been a scary combination with Bush.) They’re not racist, yet one member once said it was all right to have colored people work in your store—just have them go to the back if it offended anyone. They won’t use a religious-political agenda but they’re all for “family values” which means no gay rights, no women’s rights. I’m sure they believe a woman’s rightful place is in the home. They want tougher criminal laws. Granted our justice system is flawed, but should we really take a DNA sample from everyone charged with a crime, whether found guilty or not?

            Many parties, yet the mindset on both sides of the border has been who to vote for, no one’s particularly good, and some are downright scary. Here’s my nightmare—that Bush should get in and that Stockwell Day should win here. Two extreme right wing leaders, two powerful and large countries, most of North America, a lot of guns, and a lot of “free” people. If you ever read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (or saw the movie) it’s a fear I find still too close to my future.

            Well, Canada went to the polls and, like the US, feared the worst and cast their votes. The US has Bush (still being determined) and we voted in the lesser of the two evils and have the Liberals yet again. At least it’s not my worst nightmare.

            Whatever we voted many of us our still stuck with the fear, the gnawing small fear that, like an insidious worm, eats away at us from the inside. Our biggest fear is that our government isn’t working, that our politicians are lying to us. Do our voices and our votes even make a difference or are they just a drop in a vast ocean of indifference? We fear we have no choice in what we see. There is no good alternative and if it’s actually presented, we fear to choose it because not enough others will and we’ll then end up with a worse evil.

            We are afraid of the darkness of our democracy, the loss for everyone to choose his or her own path, to move about freely, to say what we think. But what if it doesn’t matter? What if the handful of the powerful and those who control the country’s wealth let everyone think their vote counts for change or upholding values when in fact it’s all hollow? What if those powers that be, “they” just do what they want–what they have always done because they “know” the masses don’t know enough about governing a country or the political process itself? Therefore, they will guide us and our country and our policies whether we like it or not. What if freedom of speech means only speaking in a place at a time when they want you to but not if it causes too much thought, too much questioning?

            Remember Desert Storm? I was in New York around the time the troops were coming back. A ticker tape parade and all the fixings for heroes. But there were those who disagreed on the military policies. Bus shelters with pro posters had graffiti scrawled in indelible ink on the glass. They were scrubbed and cleaned, or replaced before the troops arrived. In New York? A park in the lower east side, near where I was staying had police tape and sawhorses up so that people couldn’t gather and speak out against the military’s activity. (Shades of Beijing.) Gatherings had been planned but the police banned them. That was freedom of speech.

            True freedom means never bowing down, never giving in to the dark, the evil, the bigoted and the judgmental. Yes, one must work within a society but freedom means being heard and continuing to be heard, to shout, to scream and to keep screaming until other voices join in and those voices are heard. Becoming complacent about the freedom to choose is when it can be taken from you.

 

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