Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen sell HST as “the single best thing” that could be done for business in British Columbia. Not surprisingly, those with much to gain, the large beneficiaries, agree. A coalition of business groups held a press conference recently to say they support B.C.’s planned harmonized sales tax. Wow, I didn’t expect that.
Some supporters were so enthusiastic they predicted that HST would lead to higher wages and lower prices. That might even be a theoretical possibility, if we lived in a competitive economy. However, we will never know because, except within small business and a few other sectors, truly competitive environments do not exist in Canada.
Political-economic oligarchies have effectively captured our governments, federal and provincial. These oligarchies institutionalized regulation to protect businesses at the expense of not only consumers but, ultimately, the nation itself.
An example, minor except for its typicality, arose this week. Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, under pressure from cellphone providers, scrapped the launch of a publicly funded online cost calculator designed to help consumers compare cellphone plans of different companies.
Critics have long complained that competition between cellphone providers is illusory. The Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), a branch of Industry Canada, agreed and developed a tool they called: Which Cell Phone? A Calculator. Tested across Canada, focus group response was overwhelmingly positive. As the tool was about to debut, Industry Minister Clement suppressed it.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist suggests that with public dollars having funded the mothballed project, the government should now consider releasing the calculator’s source code and enable other groups to pick up where the OCA left off.
Without doubt, that won’t happen. The telecommunications business in Canada is the preserve of very influential people. A comparison tool designed for the public and paid for by the public will never see the light of day in public because it doesn’t suit the needs of very influential people.
Canadian icon Randy Bachman wrote the song but Takin’ Care of Business wasn’t intended to be a mantra for politicians.