B.C.’s HST: Singing in Harmony

The HST makes for strange political bedfellows – and ?interesting historical parallels.


The HST makes for strange political bedfellows – and 
interesting historical parallels.

It has to be admitted: the B.C. Liberals weren’t kidding when they named the Harmonized Sales Tax. Any piece of legislation that creates ideological harmony between Bill Vander Zalm and Carole James is a miraculously effective device. Henceforth HST will replace LSD or MDMA as the true love drug, creating blissful concord everywhere. 
The former Socred premier and current NDP leader have taken the stage together to denounce the new plan to blend the GST with the provincial sales tax and apply it to a wider array of goods and services. Quick, let’s export the HST to the Middle East and Afghanistan, then sit back and watch harmony break out all over. Peace on earth, of a sort. 

It’s nice to see the kids getting along so well, especially at Christmas. It turns out all they needed was a common enemy. Gordon Campbell has become the anti-Santa, and strangely enough the results seem to be the same. Everybody stops fighting with each other and starts writing letters instead. Do you hear what I hear?

Not that we are currently facing a “Black Tax Christmas”: the proposed 12 per cent HST will not take effect until next July. The appropriate tune will be “Summertime Blues,” rather than the “Twelve Per Cent Days of Christmas.” But considering the fact that the HST plan was never mentioned during last spring’s election campaign, B.C. voters can be forgiven for singing “It Came Upon a Midnight Not So Clear.”

The summertime introduction might seem a little odd: shouldn’t a measure like this come into effect at the beginning of the year? Perhaps the thinking is that sunshine and mojitos will take the edge off public resentment. But there is good reason for it, politically if not fiscally. The potential image problem is stupendous. Introduce the HST in or around the holiday season and you will at least guarantee a merry Christmas for political cartoonists. It’s a free shot. Their first and most obvious caricature will be that little green spoilsport who stole Christmas – Mr. Grinch. Cue the Seussian rhymes: “All the Whos down in Whoville stopped their great celebrations / and struggled to make 12 per cent calculations. . . .”

But even that potential PR debacle is not the worst. For that, there is the little matter of the Gospel of St. Luke: “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, each one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child.”

There’s your real political nightmare before Christmas. Bring in a new tax at yuletide and you are just asking for nasty comparisons. Might as well put out an order to kill all the first-born children, Premier Herod.

A new tax at Christmas? The Campbell government could follow it up with a special hand-washing ceremony, to be held every year just before Good Friday. Change the name of the Ministry of Finance to Render Unto Caesar B.C.

And yet, you have to wonder, Why run from it? Why shouldn’t the Libs embrace the whole image? Read that biblical passage again: “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. . . .” 

What’s so bad about that? That’s some serious political intimidation right there. Caesar Augustus was the Man – Rome’s first true emperor. He avenged the assassination of Julius Caesar, his patron. Then, like our premier today, Augustus faced an unusual male-female alliance. He whipped Marc Antony and kicked Cleopatra’s asp. Then Augustus ruled for a lifetime and died in his bed without any serious opposition. He probably had some distinguished grey hair too. A guy like that can harmonize your taxes however the hell he wants. And you’ll like it, citizen.