McGuinty and Hampton Spar over HST

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Howard Hampton MPPQUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Howard Hampton says “The McGuinty Liberals new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will make life less affordable for First Nations and marks a step back in the relationship between the province and First Nations”.

“The people of Ontario’s First Nations live in some of the hardest hit communities in our province and the Premier’s unfair sales tax will make life harder for them,” continued Hampton.

Premier McGuinty says that it is the federal government, not the Ontario Government which is responsible for the HST on First Nations residents. “That’s why we are working with our First Nations communities in urging the federal government to adopt the practice, which we think is fair, and which we’d like to have maintained under the new regime,” responded McGuinty.

“As the HST will make life less affordable for all Ontarians, it will have a disproportionate and negative impact on First Nations communities.  Everything from winter coats to gas for the car is going to cost these families hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars every year.”

Hampton joined Regional Chief of Ontario Angus Toulouse and other First Nations leaders at Queen’s Park today to release a report that found that the end of the point-of-sale tax exemption will cost First Nations families over $100 million.  First Nations are currently exempt from paying the 8 per cent retail sales tax on purchases made off-reserve.  This has been the case for over 40 years, and has long been recognized as part of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

“The McGuinty Liberals didn’t even attempt to consult First Nations before they struck a backroom deal with the Harper Conservatives over the HST,” said Hampton.

“For thousands of First Nations families struggling to get by, McGuinty’s the new HST will be a huge blow to them.”

Here is the transcript from the Ontario Legislature:

Mr. Howard Hampton: This question is to the Premier. The people of Ontario’s First Nations live under some of the lowest-income conditions in the province, and the Premier’s decision to implement the HST with respect to First Nations will make their lives even more difficult. A study released today shows that the HST will take at least $120 million a year out of First Nation communities.

My question: Why didn’t the Premier consult with First Nations before hitting them with this unfair new tax, the HST?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: First of all, I want to take the opportunity to welcome some of the leaders of our First Nations communities, who I understand are visiting Queen’s Park today. I want to reassure them once again that we are on the same side on this particular issue.

We’ve had a standing practice in Ontario, since forever, I believe, which exempts our First Nation communities from the PST in certain circumstances. We think that exemption ought to be extended now and have full application under the HST. That’s our position. That’s why we are working with our First Nations communities in urging the federal government to adopt the practice, which we think is fair, and which we’d like to have maintained under the new regime.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Howard Hampton: The Premier says that he’s doing all he can. When the McGuinty Liberals faced anti-HST backlash from the real estate industry, the Premier very quickly exempted homes that cost up to $400,000 from the HST. When Tim Hortons protested against the HST on the coffee and muffin lunch, the McGuinty Liberals very quickly exempted restaurant meals up to $4 in value from the HST.

If you care about the plight of First Nations, why will you not act just as quickly to exempt First Nations from the HST?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague is comparing apples to oranges. In the example that he has raised, those are circumstances over which we had complete control. When it comes to this particular circumstance, it’s something over which the federal government ultimately has control. That’s why we are working with our First Nations communities to encourage the federal government to adopt the practice that we’ve had here in Ontario, which we think is very fair and is one that we’d like to see extended into the future.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary?

Mr. Howard Hampton: Again, the Premier tries to confuse the issue. The Premier didn’t have to consult with the federal government when the McGuinty Liberals decided to exempt homes under $400,000 from the HST, you didn’t have to consult with the federal government when you decided to exempt the Tim Hortons under-$4 lunch from the HST and you don’t have to consult with the federal government now. You have the capacity now to say that under the room that Ontario has for exemptions, you could exempt First Nations across Ontario from the HST. Why won’t you do it, Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’ve already given this answer, and I’ll restate it to my honourable colleague: It is not a matter over which we have control. It’s something that the federal government has control over. It’s how they pay the tax.

We provided a point-of-sale exemption. What the federal government is insisting is that the First Nation communities in fact make that payment, and they’re talking about reimbursing it subsequently. What the First Nations communities are seeking is the same arrangement that we had with them, so they didn’t have to pay it in the first place. We think that’s simpler, we think it’s more cost-effective from a regulatory perspective, and that’s why we’d like to have it continued in the future.

Again, we will continue to work with the federal government to have them adopt a practice that we had in place.