Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix is on the road encouraging British Columbians to vote ‘yes’ in the harmonized sales tax referendum.
Dix spoke to the media in the Harbour City Monday, joined by MLAs Leonard Krog (Nanaimo) and Doug Routley (Nanaimo-North Cowichan), as well as invited restaurateurs Ilan Goldenblatt of The Thirsty Camel on Victoria Crescent and Peter Ertsos of the Diners Rendezvous on Wallace Street.
Dix said the HST, at its core, is a tax shift onto working families, leaving them less money to spend in restaurants and small businesses.
“Whether it’s Nanaimo or Williams Lake or Kelowna, I hear from small business owners who say ‘the HST hurts our customers. And when it hurts our customers, it hurts our business’,” Dix said. “The HST has been particularly negative for the restaurant business. Because we’ve gone from zero to seven per cent provincial tax, it has, as expected, cost many people their restaurants.”
The NDP wants people to vote ‘yes’ to extinguish the HST to ensure both big business and consumers share the sales tax burden.
Dix said government needs to restore the provincial sales tax as it was on June 30, 2010, with the exemptions that were in place then.
“Anything else would be enormously disrespectful of voters if they do in fact vote ‘yes’ to scrap the HST,” he said.
Goldenblatt said he is not an NDP supporter, but accepted the invitation to speak because he has a lot to say on the issue, and if anyone gives him a serious platform to speak out, he will take them up on it.
“I’m a firm believer in the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” he said.
A year ago Goldenblatt’s restaurant was open for lunch and dinner, employing 3.5 workers. Now, more than a year into the HST, he has laid off most of his staff, leaving one full-time employee, and is open only for lunch.
“Customers who used to come in two, three, four times a week are coming in maybe once a week or every other week,” he said.
He calls the HST an addition to the perfect storm that includes the global recession, high unemployment numbers and rising fuel and food costs.
Ertsos said his restaurant has also suffered under the HST with a drop in meal and liquor sales.
“Everybody I’ve talked to who owns a restaurant or small business downtown says the HST has had a negative impact on them,” he said. “By increasing the costs for consumers, the HST has undercut our revenue.”
Registered voters have until 4:30 p.m., Aug. 5 to mark their mail-in ballot and return it to Elections B.C., a Service B.C. Centre or an Elections B.C. Collection Centre
For more information, please go to www.elections.bc.ca/index.php/referenda-recall-initiative/hst-2011.