Recent murmurings regarding a value-added tax system possibly being introduced in B.C. have prompted controversy, so much so that BC Liberal leader Christy Clark recently had to address them.
Clark says a VAT, which is similar to the taxation system found in Europe, would never be introduced in B.C. if the Liberals are elected.
But former Premier Bill Vander Zalm and co-leader of the “FightHST” campaign doubts her claim, saying the VAT and the government’s approach to it mirrors what British Columbians saw regarding the now-defunct Harmonized Sales Tax.
Meanwhile, Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce says his group supports the implementation of a VAT, claiming it would help businesses in the province.
Both men called into The Jon McComb Show to elaborate on their contrasting opinions on Tuesday.
Vander Zalm claims the VAT is just HST by another name, saying the only thing both taxes do is move the burden from business to the consumer.
“It’s always the average person that gets hit hard, and they’ll be hit hard again if this tax goes through.”
And with PST, GST, MSP and others already affecting their pocketbooks, Vander Zalm says the average British Columbian already suffers plenty for the benefit of businesses.
Litwin begs to differ, however, claiming that the creation of a VAT would allow the government to tailor taxes around how consumers and businesses alike would want them to be implemented.
“This is not a redux of the old tax in new clothing, this is something quite different. We want to have a conversation with British Columbians.”
He says reducing the burden on businesses can only help B.C.’s economy, by allowing them to hire more people and increasing those employees’ quality of life.
And while he admits that a VAT would mean more products are taxed, increasing the cost to consumers, the money saved by businesses will translate into savings in other ways.
“Our call to action will be to freeze prices now for a couple years. Think about adding more value. Let’s make sure in today’s super-competitive economy that you’re being smart about how you treat your customers.”
Litwin says that above all, businesses are also consumers, and that the introduction of VAT could be much more successful than HST with proper collaboration.
“This should be a conversation. We don’t want anything forced down people’s throats, let’s talk to British Columbians.”
But that optimism isn’t shared by Vander Zalm. He says today’s situation around VAT mirrors that around HST far too closely.
He says, much like back in 2010, the BC Liberals haven’t been open enough about their plans.
“The thing is, we can’t trust the government. They have lied to us so many times.”
And when it comes to B.C.’s business community, Vander Zalm doesn’t have much trust in them either.
He points at the many businesses, especially those within the film industry, that were vocal about relocating outside of B.C. should the HST be repealed back in 2011.
“In the end, no one suffered in the business community. They all did better by it, particularly the movie industry.”
And when it comes to whether he trusts Christ Clark’s claims that a VAT would never be introduced should the Liberals stay in power?
“No, I don’t believe it. I’ve heard too much about it already,” Vander Zalm says. “I’ll be there to fight it again, we had a long hard fight previously but we’ll organize again and go against it.”
Written by Tristan Martin-Woodhouse