Why Christy Clark didn’t show up for the debate

(From the Hansard , Volume 24, Number 2, pages 7655-58)

A. Dix: Everyone in B.C. knows that the B.C. Liberals misled people in the last election about the HST. In fact, according to the Premier herself…

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Dix: …about all her colleagues, they were sneaky — well, perhaps with the exception of the member for Burnaby-Lougheed. But what’s the Premier’s record? She said two months ago that she wouldn’t change the rate of the HST or even talk about it before the election because that would be “buying votes,” and then she did the opposite. In her own words, she went out and bought votes. She promised: “I’m not going to be out there cheerleading and trying to give people some kind of snow job.” Now she’s spending $5 million in taxpayers’ money on partisan ads.


A. Dix: Oh, I know. Sneaky.

She promised equal funding for both sides in the debate. She broke that promise. She promised that the referendum will be conducted in the same manner as a provincial election, and she broke that promise.

How can the people of B.C. believe anything the B.C. Liberals or the Premier have to say about the HST?

Hon. C. Clark: I’d like to welcome the Leader of the Opposition. I’m glad he showed up today. It’s nice to hear him with a question about the HST. I’m delighted to have my opportunity and get up and speak to it.

Of course, the member for Cowichan Valley was so eloquent today. He talked a lot about going backward to the decade that we saw in the 1990s when 50,000 people fled the province. I think he reminded all of us about what the future could hold if we go back to a party where they’re talking about having a 12 percent tax for British Columbians versus a 10 percent tax. I think that when British Columbians fill out their ballots on the 24th, they’re certainly going to be making their own decision about it, and we will live by the verdict that they hand us.

But I do think, though, when they’re faced with that decision, when they’re faced with the decision for the opposition’s call for a 12 percent tax or the government’s proposal for a 10 percent tax — which, after all, is a whole lot better for B.C. families, I think — I know which one they’ll choose.

She doesn’t answer questions. Probably because she can’t — that’d make her look bad.

And it continues:

A. Dix: You know, I have to say, hon. Speaker, for the Premier, that it’s not every day you bring in closure on yourself.

She wants a 7 percent tax on a sandwich in a coffee shop. I want a zero percent tax. She wants a 7 percent tax on children’s sports programs. I want a zero percent tax. She wants a 7 percent tax on bicycles. I want a zero percent tax.

Now, if the Premier had kept her word, there would be third-party spending limits in this referendum campaign. If the Premier had kept her word, there would be disclosure of who paid for the ads, and the Premier’s taxpayer-funded stick men wouldn’t be allowed. They’re costing us $5 million — money that could be better spent keeping group homes open for people with developmental disabilities. Partisan B.C. Liberal ads in a provincial election put out by the provincial government would be illegal.

The Premier has changed the rules, broken her word to stack the deck. So why doesn’t she do the people of B.C. a favour and put a stop to those partisan ads today.

Hon. C. Clark: You know, for over a year now the members of the opposition have been saying that the government didn’t do enough to talk to people, that the government didn’t do enough to listen to people. What we’ve done is we’ve gone out and we’ve listened to British Columbians. We’ve listened to about 300,000 British Columbians. It’s the biggest listening exercise in the history of the province.

We are communicating with British Columbians. We are making sure that British Columbians have all the information they need to be able to cast an informed ballot on this issue. And I think, while the member can come up with all kinds of excuses and all kinds of reasons in advance why he thinks people might not vote his way on it, the real reason that people will probably — I hope — decide not to support the New Democrats’ position on this is because they want to increase taxes by 40 percent on iPods, on furniture, on new cars.

When they’re talking about a 12 percent tax versus a 10 percent tax, that’s exactly what they’ll be presenting British Columbians with. And you know what? I think that when they go to the polls, British Columbians are going to say: “Shelve the 12.”

A non-answer, a dog whistle, and even a catchy slogan. She does not even acknowledge anything that has been brought against her. After one more attempt at this line of questioning the Speaker steps in and says that it’s time to move on. Next we are treated to Carole James questioning the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, Kevin Falcon:

C. James: I’d like to say to the Premier and the B.C. Liberals: if they’d been listening in the first place, they wouldn’t have brought in the HST in British Columbia. British Columbia families, under this Premier and the B.C. Liberals, are paying up to 7 percent more on countless items in their day-to-day life.

This Premier and the B.C. Liberals want families to keep paying more now and after the referendum. The HST touches families in every part of their life, from birth to grave. Even prenatal classes, classes that have parents prepare a safe and healthy arrival for their newborns, are now fully taxed under the HST.

My question is to the Premier. Why is she taxing young families under her family-first agenda?

Hon. K. Falcon: I know that the math is difficult for the members opposite, but I’ll try and walk them through this pretty straightforwardly. The fact of the matter is that if you’re paying 10 percent on all your retail purchases — all your furniture, all your clothing, all of the purchases that people make every day in their lives — you’re actually farther ahead than you are paying 12 percent under an inefficient PST-plus-GST system. That’s actually how it works.

You know, I do think that there is something of interest I have noted. We have listened to now two days’ worth of arguments from the NDP about why they don’t like the HST. I heard all the different arguments, including from the Leader of the Opposition.

One thing none of us did hear, one thing none of us did hear was the impassioned arguments about why the PST makes sense, why they want to go against the tide of every other jurisdiction in Canada and around the world and go back to a retail sales tax. That’s what we have yet to hear from the NDP opposite, Mr. Speaker.

Except that it’s not that simple, Minister. Your predecessor Carole Taylor knew the differences between the GST/PST system and the HST, but you appear to have not looked at any of the specifics of the old system (namely, how the HST applies to things like food purchases where the PST did not apply); dismissing them in favor of trying to say that it’s a simple unilateral tax. Why the hell is the Minister of Finance displaying such ineptitude when faced with a question regarding taxation?

C. James: It’s very clear that the minister isn’t listening at all. It’s no surprise to anyone on this side of the House or the public in British Columbia, because the B.C. Liberals haven’t been listening from the beginning on the HST.

The HST is costing families more. Parents want opportunities for their children to grow and to thrive. They want to provide them opportunities to learn, to discover their talents. We’re coming up to summer, and summer camp now will be subjected to a tax. Parents will be paying 7 percent more so that their children can go to camp in July and August. They’ll be paying 7 percent more for art courses, for sports camps, for tutoring, for hockey school. Again, my question is to the Premier. Why is she trying to force families to choose 7 percent over zero percent? How is that putting families first?

Hon. K. Falcon: I’m not sure what part of listening to almost 300,000 people in the largest listening exercise in government is not listening to the people. What we actually did was listen, and we responded with what we heard, which was to reduce the rate to 10 percent and provide transition payments for families with children — $175 for each and every child and $175 for seniors under $40,000.

But you know, Mr. Speaker, I’m afraid I’m going to have to come back to the second edition of uncomfortable NDP facts, because clearly….


Hon. K. Falcon: Yes, I’m afraid I’m going to have to. I would like to point out that when the NDP first ran in 1991, they promised not to raise taxes at all. In the first two years after raising taxes by nearly $2 billion, one of the interesting taxes that they raised was the PST rate from 6 to 7 percent. But they didn’t just raise the PST. That’s consistent with what they always do. They also expanded the coverage to include engine tune-ups, tire installation, appliance repairs, repairs to business equipment, alteration and repairs to clothing and shoes. If it moved, they wanted to tax it and tax it higher.

We want to move it lower. Mr. Speaker, 10 percent HST is far better any day than a 12 percent GST plus PST, which is the NDP’s preferred approach.

At this point there’s really only two possibilities: he is truly inept, or he’s putting an ideology above facts.

B. Ralston: You’d never know from listening to the Minister of Finance that he’s proposing a $2.6 billion tax increase to be paid by families and small business over the next two years.

Let’s turn to something else that touches B.C. families. At this time of the year many parents are looking forward to the marriage of their children — the weddings of their children, yet these families are being forced to pay more under the B.C. Liberal HST. Does the Premier really think, based on what she said in the recent past, that British Columbians are going to accept her HST gimmick and be bought with their own money?

Hon. K. Falcon: Mr. Speaker, imagine. This is the same group that just voted against the motion that would reduce the tax burden on every family in British Columbia and increase it on large corporations. They just stood up, to a person, and voted against it.

Now, I know why they did that. I know why they did it, because they voted against every single one of the tax reductions for personal income taxes — almost 40 percent since we first got elected. They voted against every single reduction in the general corporate tax rate from 16½ percent down to 10. They voted against every reduction in the small business tax rate. They voted against the elimination of the corporate capital tax. Not surprisingly, they vote against another reduction for families and individuals across British Columbia, which is marching the HST rate down to 10 percent.

In their world, I can’t understand how their math works. How does their math work when we know from the independent panel report, which they were fond of quoting only a week and a half ago, using the same numbers, every single family at every single income level is ahead to the tune of $120 on average as a result of a 10 percent HST? Those are incontrovertible facts.

NDP math has never made sense to British Columbians, but they get that when you’re paying 10 percent on everything, not 12 percent, you are better off.

Okay, scratch that. The Minister of Finance is either lying or unfit for his office — he just blamed the NDP for trying to raise the tax burden on common people when they voted against lowering corporate and capital gains tax. And how many of those “personal income tax” reductions were for the upper brackets, hm?

I’m just going to stop here; there’s two more questions but it really is nothing more than this crap from the mouth of Kevin Falcon. I can’t believe that we have such a joke as our Minister of Finance.

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