Opposition uses premier's own words to criticize implementing tax
© Guardian photo
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and Premier Robert Ghiz before the first question period of the fall sitting of the P.E.I. legislature Wednesday.
Former statements by Premier Robert Ghiz on the HST came back to haunt him during question period in the legislature today.
Opposition Finance Critic Steven Myers pulled out numerous quotes from “a Liberal MLA” asking Finance Minister Wes Sheridan to identify who said them.
All the quotes were statements saying government would not bring in the harmonized sales tax unless home heating oil and electricity would be exempt.
“Can the treasurer identify which Liberal MLA refused to be honest and accountable to Islanders?” Myers asked Sheridan after quoting each statement.
Eventually, Myers said the statements were all made by “a young and out-of-touch premier.”
Ghiz responded by saying the HST will be exempt from home heating oil but said he is unable to also exempt electricity.
But he pointed to the energy accord that lowered energy prices in P.E.I. by 14 per cent with a two-year freeze.
“If the Progressive Conservatives were still in power when you didn’t have that, even the HST still allows Islanders to be paying essentially a lower rate on their electricity with the energy accord,” Ghiz said.
But Opposition Leader Olive Crane pointed out the Ghiz government is bringing in an HST that will not be revenue-neutral, as other jurisdictions have done. Sheridan has said government expects to bring in an additional $25 million in harmonized tax revenue.
This new tax will be a burden on Islanders already finding it hard to make ends meet, Crane said.
“The HST that this premier is bringing in is not revenue-neutral, so that means every Islander is going to pay, and pay more,” Crane said
“Why are you adding $25 million to the backs of ordinary Islanders.”
Ghiz said the HST will benefit private sector businesses, who have been asking for this tax for many years. This, in turn, will help the Island’s economy.
“The decision to bring in the HST is about promoting our Island economy and making sure those businesses in our province are able to compete on a regional, national and international standard,” Ghiz said.
“We believe that the HST is going to allow that to happen. Economists believe that will happen.”
A 14 per cent HST will be implemented April 1.