COMMENTARY · 28th June 2011
A few weeks ago, I was browsing the comments on the Terrace Daily. Merv left a note about how several advertisers have stopped advertising because of the HST. When I was in Terrace on Friday to pick up the papers, I noticed a sign in a store window asking it’s patrons to vote to repeal the HST.
This got me thinking. We’re being told the HST is good for BC, what do the businesses actually think? So while dropping off papers on Friday afternoon, I polled the businesses with the question: “Is the HST good for your business?”
Before I go any further, I would like to say there are problems with this poll. First, it looks at the businesses where we drop off papers, a majority of which are Corner Stores, Hair Salons and Restaurants. Second, the question is: “Is the HST good for your business?” and not: “Are you in favour of the HST?”
The purpose of this pole is to get the facts, not opinions. To that extent, we failed. People were also giving us their op. The numbers speak for themselves.
A majority of the businesses polled, twenty-five of them, responded No. Five businesses said Yes. Three businesses noticed no change for one reason or another. However, eight of the businesses were not certain if the HST was good or bad for their business at the time. Two businesses which answered no explained they were going with the opinions of their customers rather than their own.
One restaurant told us their customers asked about the higher prices, wanting to know if the restaurant had increased prices. Although the costs for the business are higher, they are unwilling to raise their prices to compensate because of the HST.
There were other problems as well. Two businesses told us they were uncertain as to what to charge HST on and got dinged at tax time. One restaurant told us if a business gets a large rebate, it is a good thing for their business. However, a business like a restaurant does not get a large rebate from their business expenses. This means the only businesses which really benefit are the large businesses which can write off excessive amounts.
One business was unable to tell us if it was good them or not because of all the changes which have taken place because of the HST: going to 12%, then down to 10% would cause another change to business models. In addition, the cost of freight has changed, rent models have changed and the way businesses do business has changed.
The yes side of the equation provided some interesting glances at the HST. One business commented it was good for their business, not for their customers. Another business pointed out they had to charge 13% prior to the HST, now they charge 12%, soon they will charge 10%, so this was good for their customers. One restaurant said yes but the HST was not properly introduced and it was a money grab as the tax was put on things which were not taxed prior to the HST being imposed.
Other businesses commented they receive the HST money they spend on equipment back from the government. One business told us it was more expensive for their customers and in the terms of the paperwork, they are still keeping the same records and are doing the same amount of work on it as before.
But not everyone gets to see the books. As the poll went forward, a missed opportunity was noticed. The question: ‘Are your employees aware of how the HST affects your business’ came out of the left field when a majority of the people working behind the counters replied: “I don’t know, you’ll have to talk with our manager.”
One worker told us: “The HST sucks ,,,$$” before asking us to come back and see the manager later.
How can they make an informed decision in the upcoming referendum if they do not know if the HST is good or bad for the future of their job?
Even some store managers did not know how the HST affected their business at this time. This shows the education campaign proposed by the provincial government has FAILED and the money spent on the campaign would have better been used sending someone door to door to these businesses to explain why the HST is good or bad rather than putting stick figure ads on TV that tell us nothing.
So what does all this mean? It suggests to me that not all businesses benefit from the HST. However, I am certain this is not going to be enough to change the minds of the people who are going to say they want the HST
Please more of the same!
Comment by Randy Halyk on 2nd July 2011
Thank you Walter, we seldom get opinion from the grass roots of our society, the people on the front lines, those that work day to day trying to make an honest living.
Without inititve like yours we would be a much poorer community.