The P.E.I. government tabled HST legislation Tuesday, making it official that the province will adopt the new tax.
This legislation does not include how the harmonized sales tax will affect tobacco and gas prices when it comes to P.E.I. in the spring.
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says legislation for these two items will not come forward until the last week of March in order to keep retailers and consumers from stockpiling or offering sales at an unfair advantage.
“It would allow business to take advantage of legislation,” Sheridan said.
“If we were to put the levels in place now it would disadvantage the element of bringing in the tax at the last minute and what those (prices) are going to be.”
Sheridan did admit gas prices will increase.
Currently, the province takes in 15.8 cents per litre in provincial taxes on gasoline. The province will lower that rate in order to soften the blow HST increases would cause.
The end result will still result higher than current levels.
“We haven’t determined how much yet,” Sheridan said.
“We’ve said we want to be in the Maritime average so that we would be in line with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”
Nova Scotia’s gas prices are usually anywhere from four to 10 cents higher than P.E.I.’s while New Brunswick’s prices are generally lower than Nova Scotia but higher than P.E.I.
In the meantime, the public will have a chance to look through the Retail Sales Act, which is the bulk of legislation coming forward to implement the HST.
On Tuesday, Sheridan also tabled the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement (CITCA), which is the official HST agreement between the province and the federal government.
This lengthy document contains all the provisions under which this tax is being brought in, including complicated formulas only expert mathematicians could understand.
Sheridan said these documents, although detailed and complex, merely spell out all the exemptions and rebates he has spoken about since announcing the HST last spring.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane spent much of question period Tuesday repeatedly called for electricity to be added to the list of exemptions.
She said the Ghiz government promised to exempt all heating costs and that some members even said they would never bring HST to P.E.I.
“What we’ve always been clear about — if we were going to change major tax policy, we would take that to the electorate first,” Crane said.
“As you know, Robert Ghiz did the exact opposite. He told Islanders he would never bring it in, we had an election and, the next thing, we have HST.”
Crane would not rule out filibustering, amending or holding up the bill as it makes its way through the house over the next week.
“Their intention is to have the deal locked in for five to seven years, so we really have to watch when the legislation is on the floor, and we have lots of questions,” Crane said.
Now that HST legislation has been introduced in the house, the federal government will send P.E.I. the first installment of the total $39 million in transitional funding it agreed to pay out to help the province implement the new tax.
The first $25 million must be sent within seven days of the first reading of legislation to wind down P.E.I.’s current PST, according to the federal-provincial HST agreement.
The remaining $14 million will be forwarded on the first day following the implementation date.
HST will be implemented April 1, 2013.