With less than 20 weeks before the BC election, our Liberal government continues spending tax dollars to promote themselves. It’s not the first time they aimed to influence the vote with government-paid advertising. This is from an opposition press release after the 2005 vote:
“Following revelations that the Campbell government deliberately overspent its advertising budget by $7.5 million to produce pre-election ads, NDP Leader Carole James today re-iterated her call to ban all partisan advertising by government…”
Now almost eight years later, with Clark’s Liberals in bigger trouble, the amounts have escalated. As Adrian Dix told The Tyee:
“People are outraged by the jobs plan advertising … To be advertising incessantly in a week where you missed your budget targets by $500 million that you believe in balanced budgets, even by the standard people sometimes hold political advertising in, that’s a big stretch. Then to have the public pay for these Liberal Party ads I think is a little much.”
Not only are Liberals using tax dollars for partisan purposes, the ads make statements that are demonstrably false, such as the claim that BC leads in job creation. But, false claims are not new; they are a standard part of the BC Liberal style. When HST was announced they said it would be revenue neutral, result in lower consumer prices and create 113,000 jobs.
In fiscal 2010, the last full year under the old system, PST raised $4.7 billion. The following year, with only nine months of HST, the combined sales taxes raised $5.5 billion. That suggests almost $100 million a month extra came in under HST. Given the staff and information resources within the Ministry of Finance, you can be sure that extra money was no surprise. Truth had been too inconvenient to be told.
Misinformation abounded in the government’s effort to sell the new tax. The BC Chamber of Commerce interpreted the government initiated Mintz report to say there would be “A lower tax burden for consumers” through HST. It didn’t bother to explain how both consumers and businesses would both save while government raised hundreds of millions extra each year. Again, truth had been inconvenient.
55% of votes cast in the 2011 referendum said Yes to this question:
“Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)? Yes/No”
It seems clear from the finance ministry’s numbers that Liberals do not intend to reinstate PST as it was. To reinstate is to restore something to its former state. If that were planned, the expected sales tax income would be about $800 million lower than projected for the fiscal year 2013-14. People in business tell me they are expecting continuation of most exemptions enjoyed under HST. These things mean that consumers will not see a reinstated PST, they’ll see a new “improved” PST that applies as widely as HST does now.
Ministry of Finance projections are at odds with a website maintained by the ministry’s Finance Communications Office. www.pstinbc.ca says:
“If we go back to the PST/GST, the province would see a sales tax revenue loss of about $820 million in the first year. That loss would increase to $893 million in the second year and would widen each year.”
Perhaps again, truth is inconvenient.
A question was posed in comments about repaying the federal government’s $1.6 billion transition grant. Rather than trying to determine if we did or will send that money to the feds, let’s look at the history of federal contributions to the BC budget and the estimates for the next three years.
It could be that the two senior levels of government played with the numbers to use the $1.6 billion transition payment as a way to influence the outcome of the HST referendum. The last two fiscal years, and projections for the next three, show that government to government transfers are substantially above the pre-HST levels.
Again, what they say and what we see reading the financial statements are not the same thing.