B.C.’s harmonized sales tax took a final blow in its slow-motion death spiral Wednesday with the introduction of a bill to reinstate the old provincial sales tax.
The government tabled the last bit of legislation required to transition to the PST on April 1, said Finance MFainister Mike de Jong.
“There are two aspects to this, there’s the legislative framework that this addresses transitionally and on a go-forward basis,” said de Jong.
“What most people are interested in are the exemptions that have applied in the past, prior to July 1, 2010. They will all be the same.”
Those exemptions will be further discussed as regulations during the legislative session, said de Jong.
The PST’s return in six weeks will mark the end of the unpopular HST, which was first introduced abruptly after the Liberals won re-election in 2009. Angry British Columbians voted to reject the tax in a 2011 provincewide referendum — but only after the citizen uproar cost Gordon Campbell his job as premier.
“It’s a public policy decision that British Columbians made that we respect,” de Jong said of the HST vote.
“It wasn’t my first choice, obviously. And yet moving forward and creating the [PST] certainty effective April 1 is important.”
The latest legislation sets out measures to increase the tobacco tax to compensate for the loss of the provincial portion of the HST on tobacco. The overall tax and price of tobacco remain generally constant after April 1, the government said.
The bill also reinstates a 2.7 cents per litre tax on propane, and clarifies rules around transitioning from both taxes on purchases that straddle the April 1 date.
Overall, little has changed, said de Jong.
“This is the PST as it existed prior to July 1, 2012.”
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said the government has tried to make the bill reflect the old PST while also clarifying terminology and definitions. He said the Opposition NDP plans to quiz the Liberal government in detail about the bill before it passes.
“It must irk them because the four years have been all about the HST, and bringing it in and getting rid of it,” said Ralston.
“It’s kind of an appropriate bookend. Basically it has completely dominated the entire parliament from beginning to end.”
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