Government, NDP differ on draft PST statute

MLA says transition legislation complex, NDP says it limits time for debate and changes

The B.C. Liberal government released a draft consolidation of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) statute on Jan. 9, that would take effect April 1, subject to approval of the legislature.

The draft consolidation offers a preview of what the final PST act would generally look like, but still needs approval by the MLAs when the legislature resumes later this month.

Final amendments leading to the re-implementation of the PST are to be formally introduced to the legislature this month and the draft is intended to provide another tool to support businesses during their return to a PST plus Goods and Services Tax (GST) tax system.

Draft regulations, which will complete the legislative package, will be released with or before the introduction of the amendments to the legislature.

However, the NDP’s reaction to the draft statute being release outside the legislature was it was “unacceptable and inappropriate.”

B.C. businesses would be much further ahead if the Liberals had released the final draft legislation in October 2012, as they promised,” says New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston.

With less than two months before the Liberals’ deadline to return to the PST, he notes the legislature isn’t in session and won’t be until the mid-February, which will leave very little time left to debate, scrutinize, amend and pass any final legislation.

However, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says making the transition back to the PST and GST is extremely complicated. That’s why it took so long to put the draft statute together, she adds.

“People don’t understand how difficult it is to draft legislation. It’s very complex.”

Barnett says going back to the PST is not just a big cost to businesses because they have to retool everything, but it also hurts their operations.

“It’s a big cost to them running the business because they don’t get [Harmonized Sales Tax] tax credit any longer; therefore, they’re losing their competitiveness. They have to pass [the costs] on to the consumer.”

Noting her government has provided a lot of tools to help businesses to make the transition to the PST, Barnett says if people are still having problems, they can call her office at 250-395-3916 or e-mail her at donna.barnett.mla@leg.bc.ca.