VANCOUVER - British Columbia's New Democrats are accusing the Liberals of planning to bring back the divisive harmonized sales tax, raising the spectre of a tumultuous time for Christy Clark's party.
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigned Wednesday in Cazba, a Persian restaurant in North Vancouver, where owner Nader Sigari said he was worried about the prospect of a new value-added tax.
Sigari said his business was harmed in 2010 after the Liberals introduced the HST, which combined the five-per-cent GST with a seven-per-cent provincial tax and applied to restaurant meals.
"I clearly noticed the number of my customers going down," he said. "When I asked them, they said, 'When we have to pay 12 per cent tax and almost 15 per cent for a tip, we can't afford to frequently come like we did before.' I hope it doesn't happen again."
Clark has said under no circumstances will B.C. end up with another HST.
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The Liberals said before the 2009 election campaign they wouldn't bring in the HST, so its introduction was controversial and ultimately led former premier Gordon Campbell to resign. The tax was repealed after B.C. residents voted against it in a referendum.
A panel of business leaders has recommended that the province adopt a value-added tax, which would allow manufacturing companies to pay a one-time tax rather than paying provincial sales tax multiple times throughout the production process.
The panel suggested a lower value-added tax for restaurant meals compared with other goods, suggesting 2.5 per cent as a possible rate. Customers pay five-per-cent GST when they eat out, so that would bring the total tax to 7.5 per cent.
Clark initially said she was prepared to talk to the business community about the proposal before telling the Vancouver Sun Tuesday that she would not bring in a value-added tax. On Wednesday, she was adamant.
"No. No, John Horgan. No, we are not bringing in a value-added tax," she said while campaigning at Grey Monk Estate Winery in the Okanagan.
"We are not bringing in an HST or a value-added tax. We are freezing personal income taxes. We are freezing the carbon tax," Clark said.
"My plan is to lower taxes or freeze them. John Horgan’s plan is to raise them."
But Horgan questioned why B.C. residents should trust Clark given the Liberals' denials on the HST during the 2009 election campaign.
"British Columbians won't be fooled again. It's time to come together, defeat the B.C. Liberals and elect a premier who looks out for regular people instead the top two per cent," he said.
With just days left to campaign before Tuesday's election, Clark took part in a radio debate in her Kelowna West riding before promoting her jobs agenda in the Okanagan.
Horgan said he's excited about the election and can't wait for polls to close. He added that he believes that an increase in advanced voter turnout signals good news for the NDP.
"People are anxious for a government that works for them. They're tired. They can't afford four more years of Christy Clark. People get that, and that's why they're turning out in large numbers."
— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.