By Steve Kidd – Penticton Western News
Published: September 22, 2009 6:00 PM
Regina Parker was one of about 40 people gathered downtown Saturday to protest the Harmonized Sales Tax. On a fixed income, the disabled woman says the tax will eat away at the small amount of money she gets to live on.
The sound of horns filled the air in downtown Penticton as car after car showed their support for a group of protestors crowded on street corner Saturday.
Waving signs like “No Hidden Sneaky Tax” and “Hurried Slid-in Tax” or asking “Was GST temporary?” about 40 people gathered at Main and Wade in front of the building that contains Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff’s office to protest the Harmonized Sales Tax, due to take effect next June.
They weren’t alone. The B.C. Liberal’s decision to adopt the HST is drawing opposition across the province.
A recent poll by Ipsos-Reid shows opposition to the tax is strong, indicating 85 per cent of British Columbians don’t want to see the new tax enacted.
On Saturday, that translated into thousands of protestors gathered at similar rallies in at least 15 communities across B.C. — the largest rally, in Vancouver, drew about 2,000 people to hear speakers from across the political spectrum, like former Socred speaker Bill Vander Zalm and NDP leader Carole James.
In Penticton, Regina Parker was waving a sign saying No Human Suffer Tax. Confined to wheelchair and on a fixed disability income, she said the new tax is going to hit her hard.
Her limited income is barely enough to survive on, Parker said, and she already pays taxes on that. Now, she said, they want her to pay more taxes which means she can buy even less.
The HST will replace both the provincial sales tax and the goods and services tax. Unlike the two existing sales taxes, the HST will apply, with very few exceptions, to every purchase you make.
The B.C. Liberals said the HST will save employers and corporations billions of dollars each year in provincial sales taxes and those savings will be passed on to consumers.
Opponents of the tax, however, aren’t so sure those savings will be passed on and expect the tax will mean a rise in the cost of essentials, like food clothing and shelter, taking money from those least able to pay.
Saturday’s rally was organized by Wendy Dion, who ran for the Refederation Party in the last provincial election. She feels the tax might benefit big business, but will end up hurting the little guy.
Parker said it’s been seven years since she’s seen an increase in the disability income she receives. What’s left, she adds, keeps getting cut away by rising costs and new taxes like the HST.
While Parker said she gets good support for her medical needs, like the wheelchair she attended the rally in, when it comes to ongoing support, the government isn’t following through.
“They give you everything you need to survive, but not enough to live on,” she said.
Many people in her position, Parker continued, are driven to thoughts of suicide as they realize they no longer have enough to live on.
“When you’re starving it’s enough to make you think of committing suicide,” she said.