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  • Help us build a better Ontario September 14, 2017
    If you live in Ontario, you may have recently been selected to receive our 2017 grassroots poll on vital issues affecting the province. Your answers to these and other essential questions will help us decide what issues to focus on as we head towards the June 2018 election in Ontario. For decades, the CCPA has […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Does the Site C dam make economic sense for BC? August 31, 2017
    Today CCPC-BC senior economist Marc Lee submitted an analysis to the BC Utilities Commission in response to their consultation on the economics of the Site C dam. You can read it here. In short, the submission discussses how the economic case for Site C assumes that industrial demand for electricity—in particular for natural gas extraction […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

HST Without Harmonization

A recent letter from economists nicely summarized the two main theoretical arguments in favour of the HST: “Businesses, large and small, will face lower administrative costs from complying with one sales tax system instead of two. Lower business costs, especially on capital equipment, will encourage investment and economic activity.”

Both arguments make sense in a stylized model of replacing retail sales taxes with a value-added tax on the GST base. But as I have noted before, the provincial portion of Ontario’s HST exempts some products that are subject to GST and applies to other products that are GST-exempt.

Not surprisingly, the BC government is also “rebating” the provincial portion of its HST on certain items. Indeed, yesterday’s Globe and Mail contained an interesting catalogue of the differences between the HSTs in Ontario and BC. So, businesses are still complying with as many sales-tax systems as before: the federal GST, the provincial portion of Ontario’s HST, and the provincial portion of BC’s HST.

The second pro-HST argument overlooks the exemptions for capital equipment in the former provincial sales taxes. Businesses were already benefiting from sales-tax breaks on major investments.

I made that point repeatedly on this blog and about a year ago in The Globe and Mail. My colleague Kim Pollock did so more recently with specific reference to BC’s forest industry.

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