The Sundance Java Bar has been struggling to stay afloat for nearly a year now.
Customers haven’t been coming in as often as they used to ever since the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) last summer, says Tracy Plato, owner of the Willow Point coffee shop.
Plato is just one of many who have been hit by the introduction of the combined federal and provincial sales tax, says provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, who spoke, along with North Island MLA Claire Trevena, at the Sundance Java Bar Monday morning.
Dix met with a crowd of about 30 people to encourage Campbell Riverites to vote “yes” in the referendum which will ask voters: “Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)?”
Dix said scrapping the HST will not only lift the tax burden off the shoulders of families and small businesses but help British Columbians regain a sense of democracy.
“This week you’ll be getting your HST ballots in the mail and it’s very important to understand that you have to vote ‘yes’ in order to scrap the HST because of the way the referendum question is worded,” said Dix, who labels the tax as unfair.
“The HST is a tax transfer where most people are paying more so some pay less. It’s damaging to many people in this room.”
Plato is one of those people.
“It’s definitely been our most challenging year,” said Plato. “We’ve been having trouble making ends meet since the HST.
“The main thing I’ve noticed is the frequency of people coming in. Our regular customers come in less now. Coffee is a luxury item, so when people don’t have as much disposable income, it’s the first thing people cut out.”
Plato, who plans to vote against the HST in this month’s referendum, said tips – which her employees count on to help pay the bills – have also gone down.
Trevena said Plato’s story is not unique.
“New Democrats oppose the HST in part due to our direct conversations with small businesses in B.C.,” she said.
“We recognize how critical small business is to the province’s economic stability, job creation and future prosperity.”
Premier Christy Clark announced the government would roll back the HST from 12 to 10 per cent by 2014 to help those who are struggling.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has said the reduction will lower the average B.C. family’s taxes by $120 a year and, if the HST survives the referendum, low-income seniors and parents will receive a cheque for $175 per child.
But Dix warns the Liberals’ track record shows the government can not be trusted to keep such promises.
“During the 2009 campaign they promised in writing that they would not introduce the HST. Then they did,” said Dix. “They promised the revenue would go toward health care, now it won’t. They insisted the HST would generate over a hundred thousand jobs – it won’t. Ms. Clark promised the referendum would be like a provincial election, only to break her word. It is unequivocal the Liberals can not be trusted. Liberals will say anything and do anything to salvage the HST to rescue their short-term political future.”
Dix said the Liberals are also banking on low voter turnout by holding a summer referendum.
“When you get your ballots, the important thing is to fill them out right away and send them out because the government is counting on people not voting,” said Dix. “The government will succeed if it can suppress voter turnout.
“We were misled and sold out by our Liberal government and we need to show them they can’t get away with this. They think they can fool people but I’m proud of the people in B.C. who went out and signed the recall petition and forced this referendum.”
HST ballots with postage-paid envelopes should be arriving in mailboxes this week. Ballots must be returned to Elections B.C. by July 22 and final results are expected to be announced in August.