Monday, June 28, 2010

I don't know what this HST is, but I know it's bad

Interesting HST-related survey results from Ipsos Reid this morning out of British Columbia. Well, not interesting in that everyone hates it. That's no surprise. What's interesting is that, while they hate it, they also don't seem to know anything about it.

The top line numbers are no surprise. Some 78 per cent of BCers are opposed to the HST, 65 per cent of them strongly and 13 per cent of them somewhat. Some 80 per cent think the HST will have a negative impact on them personally and 85 per cent on the province in general. 62 per cent think it will be negative for small business. 40 per cent think it will be negative for big business. 55 per cent think it will be bad for the provincial economy. 59 per cent think it will put some small business owners out of business.

So, pretty much everyone thinks the HST will be bad for, well, everyone.

Here's what I found interesting, though. While British Columbians seem to feel strongly the HST is bad, they also don't seem to know anything about it, what is covered and what is not, and just how it will actually impact them.
Of a list of 10 exempt items, very few residents (6-35%) were able to correctly identify them. For example, only one-third correctly identified the exemption for basic groceries (35%), about the same number are aware that residential rent (32%), children’s items such as clothing, footwear and diapers (31%) and prescription drugs (25%) will be exempt from HST. At the bottom end, only 17% are aware of child care service exemptions, 8% for legal aid as well as books, and only 6% for music lessons.
Despite these numbers, 62 per cent said they had a good understanding of the benefits of the HST, and 75 per cent said they had a good understanding of the drawbacks. And while they think they know about the HST even though they don't, they also blame the government and the media for not communicating better about the HST. So it's a little all over the place.

I definitely agree the BC government has done a poor job communicating the nuts and bolts of the HST, and the media certainly has no interest in substantive policy-analysis. These numbers are also evidence that the deliberate misinformation and distortion campaign of the BC NDP/Bill Vander Zalm petition drive combo is working. Confuse the people and make them angry. That's their strategy, and it's clearly working.

(For those of you in Ontatrio, the provincial government has a list of specific items and how their tax treatment will change (or not), and they’ve also put out information on how it will impact people, and impact businesses.)

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The Mound of Sound said...

It doesn't help that a Statistics Canada evaluation of BC's HST found that it would cost the average family about three times as much as the government and Fraser Institute, had claimed. Stats Can was able to demonstrate that Victoria's methodology was quite deliberately skewed. Not only has the government not explained the tax to the public but it has gone well beyond that to lie about it. Is it any wonder the Campbell government is on its way out?

Bill Tieleman said...

Sorry Jeff but your comments on the Fight HST campaign are simply wrong. We didn't get 700,000 signatures of voters opposed to the HST in less than 90 days by fooling people - that's ridiculous.

The BC government repeatedly refused to tell voters anything about the HST impact or list goods & services impacted, despite our requests. We have corrected any inadvertent errors promptly.

But to blame a grassroots group with no staff & a tiny budget versus a provincial government is not credible.