By Bob and Gaye Baird
We have made a decision to challenge the inequitable and unfair HST policy that exempts oil from the tax while including electricity under its vast umbrella. We have decided that we will not be paying the additional nine per cent cost directly related to the harmonized sales tax (HST) implementation. We will continue to pay our monthly electricity bills in a timely fashion but we will be deducting the nine per cent as a form of civil disobedience.
By exempting oil from this new tax, the government of P.E.I. has created an unfair, unequal and biased policy. We purchased our home two years ago and purposely chose a home that, amongst other criteria, uses electric heating. Not only was this our way of dealing with the environmental issues associated with using oil heating, it was also in support of the government's recommendations to use clean, renewable energy - e.g. electricity.
Not only is this taxation policy an expensive one for a specific, targeted segment of the population (i.e. those using electricity to heat their homes), but it is an unfair burden for us to have to bear. We are retired and living on a minimal fixed income and, while we recognize the government needs the additional income generated from this new approach to taxing the consumers, we do not accept that their budget shortfall should be unduly covered by just one segment of the population.
If the policy encompassed all heating products, including oil, we would find a way to deal with our increased cost of living on P.E.I.
Additionally, the proposed rebate program doesn't recognize this inequity. The government has created a situation wherein we will be paying an additional $225-plus per year for the HST component of our electricity bills, based on the previous 12 months of bills that included a warmer than average winter. Based on our income, we will be receiving approximately $150 in government rebates. Whereas, another couple, in similar financial circumstances and using oil to heat their home, will receive their rebate but will not be paying these additional home-heating taxes created by the HST. In fact, if they are earning more than the minimum income, they could be receiving higher amounts in rebates (up to $200) based on the graduated approach to paying higher rebates for higher income earners, up to the $50,000 threshold.
We are going public with our position at this time, in the hope that the government will revise their HST policy before April 1 to make it a fair and equitable policy. Apparently, the government will be holding a special meeting prior to the end of March in order to finalize the details of the HST-related gasoline and tobacco taxes and, hopefully, they will consider our perspective and correct this flawed policy at the same time.
We understand that the P.E.I. government's position is that it cannot exempt electricity, as well as oil, from this tax due to the federal government's terms and conditions around its one-time HST incentive payments. Therefore, the obvious solution to this issue would be to remove the HST exemption from oil so all taxpayers on P.E.I. would be treated fairly. Not only would this generate an additional $9 million per year in much-needed income, it could allow for additional exemptions in some socially critical areas and facilitate a more realistic and fair rebate program to the low-income segment of P.E.I. taxpayers.
In conclusion, it is our position that we will continue to pay our monthly electricity bills, but we will not be paying the additional nine per cent until such time as the HST is fair and equitable.
Bob Baird of Gaspereaux worked as a business and operations manager for more than 30 years. He has international experience in retail banking, product and market development. Gaye Baird worked as a professional manager in the travel and tourism industry for more than 30 years.