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Friday, November 20, 2009

Shut up Lisa MacLeod (VI): Six things you should know about Lisa MacLeod shutting up

It was demanded upon me to make this next installment of my popular series: Shut up Lisa MacLeod.

Today's episode involves an opinion piece that she co-wrote for the National Post, regarding the HST. In it she isn't as mind numbingly foolish as she has been previously, so maybe she should get someone to co-write everything she says. But luckily for my readers there is still plenty of silliness to mock.

She makes six points in opposition to the Harmonized Sales Tax:

1. Ontario is surrendering its constitutional taxation powers.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that allows regional governments unlimited taxation powers. Believe me, many in the Scottish Government looks towards Canada with envy. So this indeed is an important power to protect. Luckily it isn't actually in danger. The Parliament of Ontario is still free to levy all the taxes that they want thank you very much.

I admit that most of the knots and bolts issues regarding the sales tax will be handled by the Federal government. MacLeod claims that this means taxation without representation. As if Ontario wasn't represented in the Federal Parliament. Wait...what province is the Finance Minister from again...I forget...

2. There will be a hidden tax

The GST is currently at 5% and the PST is currently at 8%. What exactly is being hidden here? Is it that she's afraid Ontarians can't do basic math?

3. There is no evidence that harmonized taxes work in other federal jurisdictions

Her argument here is basically that just because it has been done in other countries doesn't mean that it will work well here. This is not an entirely unfounded complaint. One of the things I'm learning about in Grad school is pitfalls of cross country policy analyses. It is not so simple to say that something was done there so we can do the exact same thing here. The institutions and organizations are different in every country.

That being said it is possible to learn from the mistakes and successes of other country's policy. We can take those lessons, adjust them to particularly Canadian needs, and apply them. How do I know that this can be done? Well because it is done all the time. You wouldin fact be hard pressed to find policy proposals in Canada that wasn't in some way partially based on policies in an other jurisdiction. So why won't HST work in Canada again?

4. It will cost businesses money and resources to learn the new system

This is true. It is also true of any policy change made ever. There is always a capital investment made into learning how a law, policy, or institution works. That is part of the reason why it is so hard to change things, people don't want to give up that investment. This is basically an argument against the government doing anything...hang on...hmmm...

But anyway I doubt the cost will be as much as say MPPs moving to half day or MPPs recieving free childcare.

5. Companies that are exempt won't be exempt anymore

Well good. It is bizarre to me that the government picks and chooses who pays more taxes and who pays less. The government shouldn't be giving unnatural advantages to companies or industries. If her argument here is that taxingbusinesses ultimately hurts consumers, then yes I agree. So we should get rid of all corporate taxes right?

6. It would be hard or impossible to undue the HST

This is a good thing if you think the HST is a good thing. It isn't really an argument for not doing it. I guess if you were unsure about the HST you would rather that it be easily reversed once it has been tested. But still, this isn't anactual argument against the HST.

Nice try though...

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 20, 2009 | Permalink


"Shut up Lisa MacLeod."
"she isn't as mind numbingly foolish as she has been previously"

You know, I agree with your points of argument but your childish insults against your opponent, in my mind, define you as an immature opinion writer, Hugh.

Posted by: snowgirl | 2009-11-20 8:20:41 AM

Usually I would agree with that sentiment. It is just that I really dispise Lisa MacLeod.

Immature, perhaps, but we all have our weaknesses.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2009-11-20 9:29:04 AM

Shut up Hugh.

Posted by: Tony | 2009-11-20 12:16:32 PM

MacIntyre: The following link contains proof of falsifying climate data at a major UK university. It should make a good story to write about. Beware it doesn't contain any marijuana legalization content.


Posted by: The Stig | 2009-11-20 1:03:27 PM

The Harper Sales Tax would remove the tax exempt status from many products, including farm gas, and children's clothing.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-11-20 2:07:09 PM


Let's not forget that the HST was enacted by the Federal Liberals.

Posted by: Don | 2009-11-20 3:53:17 PM


OK, I'll bite, MacIntyre:

HOW is merging sales taxes with the Feds a good thing as opposed to dropping one or both -- federal and provincial -- sales taxes altogether?

Are you in FAVOUR of more efficient, centralized government in Canada?

Got any free advice for Alberta?

Posted by: JC | 2009-11-21 2:05:14 AM

Yes JC I would certainly prefer them to drop the tax (though cutting income tax is better).

Failing that the HST is not a bad policy. One of the shortfalls of the Canadian federal system is that it can be extremely complicated for companies to operate in. Seperate tax codes with seperate rules is not a simple matter for companies, especially smaller companies that can't afford expertise. By combining the sales tax you make it easier for these companies.

Am I passionately in favor of the HST? No not really, but I'm also not convinced by any the arguments given here by MaCleod. Or even by any other politician from the NDP to the Ontario PCs.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2009-11-21 2:41:08 AM

@ MacIntyre

Giving in to Federalization of the business environment is never a good idea.

The key to a complicated tax system is less federal government "harmonization", not more. Or less federal government, period.

If we note that things have become overly complicated and inhibit business development, then the time to push back is long since past.

That is why we have a CTF. Or used to be.

Once the Harper Sales Tax is installed, Ottawa will begin the process of rendering it more onerous and oppressive and complicated than any combination of taxes used to be. Count on it.

Posted by: JC | 2009-11-21 1:09:57 PM

Hugh, collectivizing and centralizing is never a good idea... even in the name of pragmatism.

Posted by: shel | 2009-11-21 2:25:14 PM

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