McGuinty defends HST to ethnic media

By RON FANFAIR

While acknowledging that the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) might have a short-term adverse effect on some industries, including community newspapers, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the single sales tax will boost the economy by creating jobs and helping businesses – particularly those in the manufacturing sector — which is the second largest in North America behind California.

The13 per cent tax reform will combine the provincial and federal sales taxes – the existing five per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the eight per cent Ontario sales tax — on products and services beginning July 1, 2010.

Atlantic provinces New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have had a single HST since 1996. Saskatchewan, under Conservative Premier Grant Devine, was the first province to implement the HST in 1991 which proved unpopular. The Tories lost the next election to the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the taxes were separated again.

British Columbia is also merging its sales tax with the federal GST, beginning next July.

At a roundtable discussion with the Premier hosted by the National Ethnic Press & Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC), some community newspaper owners expressed concern that the new tax will hurt their businesses which are already reeling in the wake of the global economic recession.

While sympathizing with them, McGuinty said the HST is a modern progressive tax system that will enable the province’s businesses to be more competitive.

“We are not doing the harmonized sales tax because we think it will boost our popularity,” said McGuinty. “We are doing it because we honestly believe that it is the right thing to do. We are especially doing it to help our businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing sector.

“Our manufacturers are competing with 130 other countries which have a HST which means they can sell their goods for less than they can here in Ontario. It (the HST) does present some challenges for some people and that’s why we are providing rebates and tax cuts to help out with the transition.

“The central reason for doing this is to create more jobs so that people can have the capacity to help us support things like our schools and health care systems. We want them to have enough jobs so their businesses are strong enough and they can advertise in your newspapers.”

A specific exemption applies to newspapers, magazines and periodicals whereby subscriptions paid for before July 1, 2010 will not be subject to HST.

McGuinty promised that his government will continue to support community newspapers. He said the government spends nearly 25 per cent of its advertising budget — $3.9 million in 2007 and $4.7 million last year – with ethnic publications.

“You strengthen our democracy because you inform people about our government and give voice to their concerns,” McGuinty said. “You brought attention to the need to break down barriers for skilled immigrants. That helped our government to raise awareness among Ontarians generally and you encouraged us and we indeed did take steps to improve access to our professions. You highlighted where Ontario could take advantage of new emerging market opportunities.

“I encourage you to do what you do best which is giving voice to the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Ontario families. Keep people informed about our government and our government informed about the concerns of the communities that you represent. For our part, the government will continue finding fiscally responsible ways to support those things Ontarians value most like education, health care and jobs.”

Last Monday, the NEPMCC recognized several of its members and community workers at an awards ceremony hosted by Lieutenant Governor David Onley who made the presentations.

Toronto Police Service sergeant Terry James, who conceived the idea for the service’s Black History Month celebrations, was honoured for her contributions to social justice and human rights; reporter Gerald Paul was recognized for advancing human rights and equality causes and Ned Blair was acknowledged for photographic excellence.

The press organization will hold a three-day national development training seminar for media practitioners November 20 to 22 at Seneca College’s Markham campus.

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