April Fools’ Day brought good news and bad for British Columbians. Thanks to the elimination of the 12 per cent harmonized sales tax and the return of the seven per cent provincial sales tax, it was cheaper on April 1 to buy restaurant meals, gym memberships and vitamins. But it was also a day when, unrelated to the tax, the price went up for some things, including rides on B.C. Ferries. Bus riders, meanwhile, saw some fares drop and others increase.
Though largely indifferent to the tax changes, Paul McGuire said he is not happy about the price of disposable diapers going up. Before the change, diapers were subject only to the five per cent GST because there was a point-of-sale rebate for the PST. Now, disposable diapers are again being taxed a total of 12 per cent.
Andreas Pakenham, who works at Fairfield Bicycle Shop on Moss Street, welcomed the tax changes because customers will be paying less for bicycle purchases and repairs, which are PST-free as of Monday.
“Some people are using it as an excuse to get a new bike,” Pakenham said. The break on repairs will help lower-income cyclists keep an older bike working, he added.
The restaurant industry, hit hard by the HST over the last two years, is also happy to see it end. Restaurant meals are now subject only to the GST, not the PST. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association expects the return to the PST regime will boost restaurant sales by 5.1 per cent this year, said vice-president Mark von Schellwitz.
Tables were filled Monday at The Village restaurant on Estevan Avenue, where co-owner Brian Bobiak has heard from customers pleased with the tax change. “It’s a seven per cent change, so it is a noticeable difference,” he said.
Mike Murphy, owner of downtown restaurants Pescatores, Oyster Bar and Bon Rouge, said the tax change isn’t all good news.
“In the bigger picture, the HST is probably a smarter plan long-term for the province, but that’s politics for you,” he said, noting the way it was brought in, with no consultation, raised the ire of the hospitality industry and the electorate.
While not related to the HST, fare changes Monday will affect ferry and transit users. B.C. Ferries fares increased an average of 4.1 per cent for passengers and vehicles. On its busiest route — Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen — the fare for a passenger vehicle up to 20 feet long is now $51.25, up from $49.25. A passenger 12 years and older is charged $15.50, an increase from $14.85.
B.C. Transit’s new rates reduced the price of monthly bus passes for seniors and youth to $45 from $52. The cost of an adult and college one-day pass drops to $5 from $7.75. A one-day seniors and youth pass has been cut to $5 from $5.50. However, the cash fare is now $2.50 for everyone, eliminating the youth (ages six to 12) rate and the seniors’ rate of $1.65. A book of 10 tickets for youths and seniors stays the same, at $15.
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