Carrot or the stick with HST

It’s said that once upon a time, mule train drivers would motivate their reluctant charges by alternately tempting them with a carrot or giving them a whack with a stick across their southernmost end.

As a figure of speech, “carrot or stick” has become so commonplace you rarely think about where it came from. But in terms of the upcoming HST referendum, the provincial government is clearly experimenting with the mule drivers’ motivational theories, promising lower tax rates if the electorate votes to keep tax in place.

The stick is a little more subtle; that comes in the advertising and press releases pointing out what the province will lose should the referendum fail. Because it is likely to fail — how many people are going to go out of their way to vote YES to a tax?

There will always be questions about how the HST was introduced to B.C., with little doubt remaining in the minds of voters that Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberal were less than forthright about their plans before and after the 2008 election, moves that resulted in a 700,000 signature petition and the upcoming referendum.

But, with the HST referendum coming up this month, we think it is time to put the back room shenanigans aside and focus on the tax itself.

For the average consumer, there is going to be little change; the current 12 per cent rate, now slated to drop to 10 per cent in 2014, is in the same range that the combined PST/GST used to play in. Yes, some things are being taxed that weren’t before, and that needs to be changed — it’s hard to argue that a new tax on restaurant meals is a good thing, especially in a province that relies on tourism as a major economic driver.

But at the end of the day, the arguments for how a single tax benefits both consumers and businesses out weigh the negatives, so perhaps it’s time to break voter tradition and vote in favour of a tax … think how surprised the politicians will be!

And of course, there is that yummy carrot dangling just out of reach…

-Penticton Western News

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