Looming HST hit will be talk of Tims
TheSpec.com - Opinions - Looming HST hit will be talk of Tims
The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 26, 2009)
The fresh-faced young blond behind the counter at the Tim Hortons in Campbellford, Ont., had taken the old fellow's order and, as she fetched the coffee and muffin one recent mid-morning, was also -- Premier Dalton McGuinty not being available -- taking a piece of his mind.
The codger was loudly tallying for her benefit, and that of the growing line behind him, what the premier's proposed harmonized sales tax was going to add to the cost of such modest treats when fixed-income seniors like himself dropped by next year -- assuming they lived that long given the insult and injury headed their way.
To her credit, the server maintained her sunny smile -- even as her eyes grew more glazed than the doughnuts -- and clucked commiseration at her irate customer.
It was a bottomless cup of double-double outrage for a tax he's still 10 months away from paying.
The odds are good that Liberal MPPs have heard variations on the tirade at barbecues and ballparks and farmers' markets all summer. At their caucus meeting today, many will be hoping the premier's brain trust has come up with a way to help them market the tax change.
To date, their problem is simple. Anyone can explain in five seconds why they hate the HST. It takes an op-ed page and a few economics credits to explain why you're in favour.
As most veteran campaigners will tell you, if you can't explain it simply at the door, you're in trouble.
In all, the McGuinty package has the sort of marketing challenge Brian Mulroney had with his Meech Lake accord. Just as that constitutional contraption was famously cobbled together behind closed doors by 10 white guys in suits, the McGuinty plan was inked in private with the feds and dropped in MPPs' laps to sell.
By all accounts, that's not proving easy. Worse still, any tax change that comes with a package of sweetening cheques and rebate contortions worthy of the Kama Sutra usually leaves voters smelling something fishy.
That's why the Sept. 17 byelection in St. Paul's will be watched so closely. Byelections are usually an electoral Rorschach blot. People see in them what they will. Wind-turbine foes and anti-nuclear activists are already inviting St. Paul's to send a message to the government. For opposition parties, the message is the iniquity of the HST.
Newly elected Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak sees ground to be made. Hudak's an economist by training. He gets the argument for harmonization. But he worked only briefly as a dismal scientist. He's been a politician for 15 years. And few sounds are sweeter to opposition politicians than the angry murmur of nascent tax revolt.
As it happens, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is the newest member of Canada's first ministers' club. He's a down-to-earth guy with a good instinct for how popularity is built.
He was saying at his first Council of the Federation meeting in Regina earlier this month that when he led the students' union at the University of King's College in Halifax he helped establish one of the more popular student pubs in the country. Nothing he does as premier is apt to win him such enduring goodwill, he laughed.
Nova Scotia has been through harmonization. And Dexter told the Toronto Star's Rick Brennan recently that McGuinty had best prepare Ontarians better than it appears he has for the hit they are about to take.
"I don't think there's anything that inspires people to go to their local Tim Hortons and talk like a tax increase," Dexter observed.
Just ask that clerk in Campbellford.
Jim Coyle writes on provincial affairs.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 9:06 AM