Friday, August 28, 2009

IMPACT OF HST ON RESTAURANTS & LOCAL FARMS

Hi Everybody,

Yesterday I participated in Question Period for the first time.

The transcript is below.

Here is the link where you can watch it: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/video/archive.asp?video=200908271300&time=13:53:53&duration=00:34:53&toc=archive My question starts at the 16:40 minute mark.

IMPACT OF HARMONIZED SALES TAX
ON RESTAURANT INDUSTRY
AND LOCAL FARMS

L. Popham: By implementing a tax that threatens B.C.'s restaurant industry, this government is slamming the door on a critical market for B.C. farms. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Recently the president of the Island Chefs Collaborative, Cory Pelan, stated that the connection between small local farms and the restaurants they supply is a direct and mutually sustainable one. However, Mr. Pelan said that because the HST threatens the restaurant industry, it also threatens B.C.'s small and medium-sized farms, which depend on local restaurants buying their fresh produce. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

My question is to the Minister of Agriculture. Did you consider the negative impacts on small farms when you supported the HST? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. C. Hansen: Let me tell you what was actually the biggest threat to the restaurant industry that's occurred in the last number of years. It was actually a commitment…. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Just sit down, Minister. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Members.

Continue, Minister. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. C. Hansen: The biggest threat to the restaurant industry in recent years was the commitment that was made by that party that would jack up their wage cost by 25 percent, and the industry itself said it would lay off thousands of restaurant workers and close literally hundreds of restaurants around British Columbia. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

To the benefit of the hon. member, the B.C. Agriculture Council, which represents 12,000 farmers in British Columbia, is in support of HST because it takes costs out of their costs in producing the food that we depend on. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: The Minister of Agriculture didn't answer my question. My question is about small farmers and local food production for local restaurants. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, has stated today that the connection between the restaurant industry and local food and beverage producers provides a material boost to the local economy. B.C. Restaurants and Foodservices Association does not support the HST. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Given the devastating effect HST will have on the restaurant industry and local farms in B.C., will the Minister of Agriculture stand up for these industries and demand the Premier cancel the proposed HST in British Columbia? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. C. Hansen: As I pointed out to representatives of the restaurant industry in one of our discussions, even a head of lettuce has embedded PST built into the cost. The cost of putting tires on the trucks that move produce from the farms to the distribution warehouses and from those warehouses to the restaurants has embedded PST in it that gets passed on in terms of the cost of those goods. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

I can tell you what is the biggest threat to the restaurant industry in British Columbia. It's people who are unemployed, and that threat is because people who don't have jobs don't typically go out to restaurants to dine. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

This is a measure that's going to create jobs. This is a measure that's going to stabilize the economy and provide for economic growth, and it is exactly that economic growth that will help benefit a restaurant industry in the years to come. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]



Friday, August 21, 2009

Saanich South Constituency Office Opening


Thanks to everyone who attended the Saanich South office opening today. We had over 150 guests! It was great to see familiar faces and meet new constituents. The fresh corn from Sluggets farm and the organic vegetables from Saanich Organics were a real treat!

Our office hours until after Labour Day, will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-3pm. We will announce our fall hours soon.

Please come in and enjoy the Saanich South Community garden. Anytime the office is open we will be opening the gates to the garden and you are welcome to come in and make yourselves at home. We have 3 bistro tables under a gazebo that are a perfect place to sit and read or write.

All through my campaign I spoke of my dedication to our community. When I chose this office location it was because it was a place that would lend itself to community gatherings. This community is important to me and I want you to feel welcome.

I hope to see you soon. This is your place Saanich South!


Lana Popham

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In the Trenches


Hi Everybody,

I've had busy summers before, but nothing compares to the past month.

Two weeks ago I was in the South Cariboo on my first tour as Agriculture Critic. I spent six days meeting with farmers, ranchers, and people involved in Agriculture and Food Security. I learned a lot and hope to have a few moments soon to share my reflections with you. This is the first of many tours I will be taking.

But, back on the home front, my office continues to receive dozens of emails about the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Two weeks ago I wrote that you may not have heard much about it well, that has changed! The media has also felt how much this issue has grabbed the public's attention.

There are still many details to be revealed about the HST plan.

In theory, the call for harmonization is a good idea: reducing paperwork and streamlining our tax system is necessary.

But it looks like the government is using that worthwhile objective as a smokescreen to bring in a new and unfair tax.

Together we can change the government's plans.

Here are the three top reasons why I strongly oppose the government's proposed HST:
1. The HST would drive up the cost of many goods and services, from rent to hydro bills, haircuts, movie tickets, restaurant meals, vitamins, bicycles, Energy Star appliances, and even funerals. The list goes on and on and the cost to you will be significant. For those on a fixed or low income, this additional burden may be devastating.

2. This measure is a painful blow to many BC businesses – the restaurant industry alone, for example, estimates that this new tax would cost their businesses $750 million per year, leading to job losses right when we can least afford it. Despite what you may have heard, most businesses won't get other tax breaks and will be unable to absorb such a tax hike. Our vital tourism industry is going to take it on the chin. It just doesn’t seem right.

3. In addition to the fact that the HST would make people’s lives harder and hurt businesses during the recession, the government doesn’t have the mandate to bring in this tax. If the government really thinks that the HST is the “best thing” for the economy, they should have put that choice before British Columbians. Instead, after running for government in the recent election, with promises that they had no plans to impose the HST, the government then betrayed the trust and insulted the intelligence of British Columbians by doing just the opposite. A mea culpa and an apology would be an appropriate way to clear the air and move forward.

There are many better ways to approach taxation reform.

Consult broadly and listen to new ideas for change! We need to push our tax system to DECREASE taxes on products and services that benefit us and INCREASE taxes on the opposite. This is the idea behind high taxes on tobacco.

This is a model we must give more weight to - a positive kind of solution. Let's have a debate - wouldn't this be a more balanced, healthy, approach to governing?

The government claims the HST will have a net positive impact on BC, but after reading letter after letter from businesses that will be negatively affected it is hard to imagine.

Just yesterday, foe example, I received a letter from the Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia. They are concerned about the HST. They explain that Registered Massage Therapists are in a unique situation within the health care profession as they are one of two groups who must charge GST on each patient visit. This means that the HST will increase the tax paid from 5% to 12%. They are worried that this will limit visits from their clients who will feel a financial burden.

This is the type of story that makes you really question the way this tax was introduced. Why wasn’t there any consultation?

Is the HST all bad? Not completely. It will help the owners of certain businesses, most definitely. But for the rest of us, this is going to hurt. For people running businesses with tiny margins, for people with a low or fixed income - this tax increase may be devastating.

The Minister of Finance points to a CD Howe study of the HST in the Maritimes as evidence of the benefits of HST. But that is misleading: when the Atlantic Provinces brought in the HST they dropped the total amount of the sales tax. And, even then, the HST actually increased the cost of vital commodities like housing and clothing.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to sign an anti-HST petition by clicking here. You also may want to join more than 90,000 people (!!!) opposed to the HST on a non-partisan facebook site - click here.

Please keep in touch. Stopping this tax will not be easy but it can be done.

Lana

ps. All Saanich South Consituents are invited to an open house for my Constituency Office this Friday, August 21, from 1 to 6 pm.