MONTAGUE — The turnout was small but opposition to the harmonized sales tax was vociferous here Wednesday night when Finance Minister Wes Sheridan hosted a public meeting on the tax he claims will jump start local business.
“Rather than bring in a consumption tax, bring in a luxury tax and tax the rich,’’ insisted retired scientist Roger Gordon. “Your tax hurts the poor.”
The Stratford resident said figures and graphs being used by the government to sell the HST are misleading and the end result would mean the lowest income earner is going to take a major hit.
“You are taxing the necessities of life and hurting those with the least,’’ he said.
There were chairs set out for 200 people at the Montague Regional High School but only 20 were filled.
Sheridan claims the HST, to be implemented next spring, will have the greatest impact on families making over $55,000 a year and reduced impact on those making less. He said there will be no tax on prescription drugs, rent, basic groceries and day care.
However, Lori MacKay, president of the Canadian Union of Public Sector Employees, said most of her membership will feel the crunch because they fall in the $30,000 a year income bracket.
“You are taxing the necessities of life and hurting those with the least." - Roger Gordon, Stratford
“I’m going to have to pay tax on my kid’s clothing because they wear adult sizes,’’ she told the gathering.
“Our members will have to pay on their children’s school supplies and then because the only thing left we can afford to do is go camping….you’re going to hit us again with tax on those supplies.”
Gordon, who said he and his wife will have to pay another $600 a year, said the HST aims at the “necessities of life” such as electricity, heating, clothing and housing. He said those who can afford a $40,000 car or $400,000 home should be the major targets for government tax.
“This is not a progressive tax,” he said. “It’s totally regressive.”
The finance minister said the HST will provide a level playing field with other provinces and help the private sector to grow and expand.
“I don’t think you’re getting the best bang for your buck from the federal government on this tax,” said MacKay. “I think it’s just a way for you to try and get into the good books with (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper.”