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Comment: Tony Wilson

HST 'letter' challenges arguments against tax Add to ...

I’ve discovered a YouTube video that’s about to go viral and make its creator an Internet sensation.

At least in British Columbia.

It’s not a new song by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, and it doesn’t feature giggling babies or dancing dogs. It’s about the HST, a topic I’ll be discussing quite a bit over the next few weeks.

Everyone in B.C. who pays HST, everyone who is receiving an HST input-tax credit, everyone who is receiving an HST rebate cheque, everyone who owns a business, everyone who works for a business, everyone who is unemployed or on a fixed income, and everyone who doesn’t like it when they’re being hoodwinked, should click here and watch “A letter to Bill Vander Zalm.”

It’s faaaantastic. And it could be a game changer in the province’s HST debate in the leadup to a province-wide referendum on the future of the tax that starts June 24.

The video was created by UBC law student Chris Thompson. I’ve never met him, but I predict he will have a long and successful career in law, politics, economics, public relations, business, the teaching profession, the movie industry, journalism, stand-up comedy, or all of the above.

What he’s done using social media is what former premier Gordon Campbell, the entire B.C. Liberal caucus, the country’s leading economists, and new Premier Christy Clark have been unable to do very well when confronted by the public’s anger about the introduction of the HST, and a misunderstanding of the tax’s benefits when compared to the old PST.

That misunderstanding was fuelled (much like gasoline on a fire) by former premier Bill Vander Zalm who, I must remind everyone, cost B.C. families many thousands of dollars when he introduced the Property Transfer Tax on the sale of real estate when he was premier. Mr. Vander Zalm, the leader and main spokesperson for FightHST, was compelled to resign as premier in 1991, due to a conflict-of-interest scandal arising from the sale of his own real estate development, Fantasy Gardens.

In “A letter to Bill Vander Zalm,” Mr. Thompson has done the math and he has read and re-read the latest report posted on Mr. Vander Zalm’s FightHST website, called “HST or PST? The truth about the HST and why returning to the PST is better for BC.”

Mr. Thompson has gone through all of the arguments against HST and he has checked and re-checked Mr. Vander Zalm’s assertions and his sources in much the same way a high-school teacher or university professor might check a student’s work (for things like accuracy, proper quoting of sources, intellectual integrity, and sound thinking).

Watch the “letter” video and you’ll see how Mr. Vander Zalm’s “Truth about the HST” misquotes from its sources, and claims things were said in expert reports and newspapers that weren’t really said. It cherry picks statistics, it misrepresents facts, it makes assertions that its own sources contradict, and it is filled with so many inaccuracies and half-truths, that after viewing the 15-minute video, you might think the report’s authors either weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, or they were lying to you. Or both.

You decide.

“The HST hurts families, seniors and low-income people most,” Mr. Vander Zalm’s report says.

But Mr. Thompson goes to Mr. Vander Zalm’s own sources to show that lower-income people are actually better off under HST than PST. In fact, low- and fixed-income earners receive $230 a year as an HST rebate. But 1.1 million British Columbians who now receive the much larger HST rebate will have to go back to a PST tax credit of only $75 a year if HST fails.

“HST kills jobs and hurts the economy,” Mr. Vander Zalm’s report says, arguing “Alberta – with less resources, a smaller population base, no HST or sales taxes, and no MSP premiums – has lower unemployment, a lower cost of living and a stronger economy. Clearly, the HST is not necessary to stimulate economic growth.”

Mr. Thompson narrates this in response: “Really? You don’t think oil has anything to do with this? Bill, we’re not that stupid.”

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