Last month, at their annual conference, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce called on the provincial government to make reforming the PST a priority.
It was the Penticton Chamber of Commerce that set the ball rolling, however.
“It was our resolution that we presented. There was some debate about it at the convention, but it was passed by the majority of the membership,” said Andre Martin, president of the Penticton Chamber.
Once the proposition received support of the 125 local chambers of commerce at the general meeting, the B.C. chamber took it on and came out with a formal stance that they want to work with the provincial government to find a solution to the problem, calling for discussions on developing a provincial value-added tax.
“The PST is an abysmal tax and as British Columbians, we simply can’t settle for it,” said John Winter, president of the B.C. Chamber. “This tax stunts business growth in B.C., scares away Canadian or international businesses that might come grow jobs here, and mires everybody in red tape and nonsensical rules. Frankly, it’s an embarrassing tax.”
“We understand there has to be some sort of tax. We know it can’t be changed overnight, but we also know that governments take a long time to get things done,” said Martin. “That’s one of the reasons we brought it to the B.C. chamber. We wanted to get it to the forefront so they can start working on some sort of value-added tax for business.”
One of the major issues, explains Martin, is that PST is charged at every step — from supplier to manufacturer, manufacturer to wholesaler, from wholesale to retail — rather than just the end product.
“It just adds another level of cost to the final product, which means our manufacturers become less competitive,” said Martin.
The B.C. chamber called for temporary fixes while a VAT is developed and implemented, including widening PST exemptions on investment in machinery and equipment, to enable B.C. businesses to invest in needed technologies and equipment to keep competitive; and continue administrative improvements to the PST.
“We have to put the HST debacle behind us, implement some quick fixes to the PST as a stop-gap solution, and build a made-in-B.C. tax solution that will grow B.C.’s prosperity — not undermine it,” said Winter.