Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Monday, April 26, 2010)

The Anti HST crusader will soon appear in Prince Rupert, Gary Coons continues to quiz BC Ferries on security of data concerns and City Council decides to wait another week before rendering  a final approval to the budget, some of the items of interest in the Monday newsfiles.

Daily News, front page, headline story
ANTI-HST CRUSADE AND VANDER ZALM VEER TO THE NORTH COAST -- Bill Vander Zalm finding his anti HST message a welcome missive for many, makes plans to take the crusade to Prince Rupert with a My 21st appearance planned for the city, where he will share more of his cause to over turn the Liberal government's plans to harmonize the federal and provincial taxes.

Gary Coons continues to express his concerns over matters of operation of BC Ferries, this time he wants the Ferry Corporation to address the handling of credit card information, stemming from a number of incidents that the North Coast MLA recently made the privacy commission aware of. BC Ferries responded to some of his concerns with a statement that their research shows that their database is safe and nearly impossible to hack into. Mr. Coons however is still hopeful that the privacy commissioner will investigate and verify that there have been no security breaches.

Details of Fairview Management's Good Food Box Program make the page three feature of the Monday edition, a project which once a month provides fresh produce and staples for fifteen dollars. Sales now top forty two boxes a month, almost double the amount since they first took the project public.

The Sports section features a look at this years Prince Rupert Youth Soccer Association season, with games under way and grass field open at the earliest date in the last five years.

(Daily News Archive Items for April 26)

Anti-HST crusade and Vander Zalm veer to the North Coast
Hacking it up BC Ferries style not very popular 
Moving on — local resident reflects on Manitoba incident 
New book features two Northwest men
In the mood for good food at NWCC

The Northern View
No new items were posted to the Northern View website on Monday.

Prince Rupert budget deferred -- CFTK has our first look at the budget deliberations of Prince Rupert City council, with council deciding to defer a final reading on the budget until May 3rd, allowing for more time to work on the details and final figures before the final vote (see article here)   

New Senior Housing for Prince Rupert -- A look at the latest plans to offer more housing choices for Prince Rupert's seniors (see article here)

CBC News Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
No new items were posted to the Northern View website on Monday.

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here 

Daily News, front page, headline story
Anti-HST crusade and Vander Zalm veer to the North Coast 
By George T. Baker
Staff Writer
Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, April 26, 2010 

 The campaign to over-turn the HST is set to arrive in Prince Rupert next month

Boff, zoom bam, newly minted anti-tax superhero Bill Vander Zalm will be flying to Prince Rupert to bring his fight the HST crusade to the North Coast.

It has been confirmed the former premier will be bringing his Fight HST rally tour to Prince Rupert on May 21, where it is expected he will meet with hundreds of supporters of his HST opposition campaign.

According to local Fight HST organizer Gina Clark, Vander Zalm will make good on a promise to visit the North Coast in late May, though a location and exact time have not been established.

And all is going well with the campaign, she added

 “We are doing well collecting names in Haida Gwaii, Bella Bella and Bella Coola,” said Clark. “We are getting quite a lot of canvassers in those places.”

Locally, at least twenty-four people have signed up in Prince Rupert and three on Haida Gwaii.

Estimates from those organizing the fight have placed current numbers at about 1,200.

At the Third Avenue Coffee Shop, owners Vince and Connie Amante have said they have had little trouble getting locals to sign the petition.

 In little less than three weeks, they alone have signed up at least 440 people to their sheets they have provided in their eclectic coffee temple and suntan bed salon.

However, a problem with the campaign could arise if signatories are not putting down their proper electoral addresses.

As part of the rules, the signatories must place the address from where they are registered to vote. If that is not their current address, then signatories must visit http://www.elections.bc.ca/index.php.voting/online-voter-registration.

There are 85 constituencies in B.C., and 10 percent of registered voters in each constituency must sign the petition for it to force the introduction of a bill or province-wide vote on repealing the HST. 

The HST will replace the seven-percent provincial sales tax and the five-percent federal goods and services tax.

The new 12-percent levy will apply to many goods and services currently covered by the GST but not the PST. 

“It’s going good.

 “But it would be better if those who signed the original sheet, that was not legal, would come here, King Koin or to Fishermen Hall to sign the real one,” advised Amante.

Fight HST is the kind of populist campaign that generates an immediate wave of support, but it’s not clear what effect it will have on B.C. politics.

Meanwhile, BC Liberal MLAs are gearing up to defend the HST.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen said Monday the government’s annual mailing on budget measures, which will include information about the new tax, would be vetted by Elections B.C. to ensure it doesn’t violate the province’s Initiative Act.

Under the act, opponents of the HST, which blends the federal GST with the provincial sales tax and applies it to more goods and services, have until July 5 to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the tax.

British Columbians are not a shy bunch when it comes to public outrage over provincial government policy. But populism does not necessarily lead to altering the provincial leadership’s position, according to Northwest Community College political science professor Hondo Arendt.

 “I don’t think that will happen just because it seems that the previous few times people have tried to get all the petitions together and fulfill all the requirements they haven’t even come close to enough to force the issue,’ said Arendt.

Of course, even if there are enough signatures, the signatures do not require that the provincial government vote to repeal the HST.

Arendt added that while this may appear to spell doom for the BC Liberals, the reality is that voters have short memories and that when it comes to the next provincial election, it may not be a front-and-centre issue.

 “I think the public will feel ripped off. But I also think that it will probably be forgotten by the next election. I suspect that the BC Liberals are counting on that and they don’t seem to be giving any ground on it,” commented Arendt, who has also run for the Green Party in previous elections.

A Simon Fraser University economics professor, however, doesn’t understand why people view the tax with such anger.

Simon Fraser University tax policy expert, Jon Kesselman, said that British Columbians will have good reason to celebrate when the much-maligned HST takes effect on Canada Day, according to a new paper he authored. In a column appearing in the latest issue of Policy Perspectives, a Business Council of British Columbia publication, says if you pass the HST through an economic prism it passes with flying colours. 

In The Harmonized Sales Tax—Through an Economic Prism, Kesselman concludes the impending amalgamation of the provincial sales tax and the federal goods and services tax will improve tax simplicity, economic efficiency and equity.

 “Some losers will arise in sectors that have enjoyed a tax-preferred status for many years, such as restaurants and home construction,” says Kesselman, a co-originator of the Tax-Free Savings Account. “But overall British Columbians will gain through a more competitive business sector yielding, over time, more investment, increased employment, and better-paying jobs.”

 The Business Council of B.C. executive director Jock Finlayson has been a large supporter of the HST and the BC Liberal party in the past. And the council itself is promoting the shift to the HST, which will place a larger tax onus on consumption rather than production.

The idea is to make job creation more palatable for producers, while hoping that consumption would remain the same.

 However, small business owners, restaurateurs, low-income earners and service providers will no longer be GST exempt. But Kesselman notes harmonization will save the B.C. government and ultimately taxpayers $80 million annually in public costs and partial compensation to businesses for collecting the PST.

The SFU Canada Research Chair in Public Finance added, “Businesses and other B.C. entities now collecting the PST will save a further estimated $150 million per year in compliance cost. Business cost savings of $100 million per year will flow through as lower prices for consumers.”

Kesselman called the PST “a dying breed” that survives in only a few jurisdictions around the world. He suggests that consumers would find the amalgamated provincial and federal sales taxes more palatable if the government adopted a tax-inclusive pricing system that doesn’t treat the HST as an add-on expense.

With files from Canadian Press

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