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.
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 The tax was repealed after B.C. residents voted against it in a referendum.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 but on Wednesday she was adamantly against the idea.
"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 of the top two per cent," he said.
In Victoria, Green party Leader Andrew Weaver, a scientist and expert on climate change, received an endorsement from prominent environmentalist David Suzuki.
Suzuki said he has never officially endorsed a political party before but he is backing B.C.'s Greens because of their stance on climate change.
"There is no greater authority on climate in this country than Andrew," said Suzuki. "There is no better person in this country to guide us into the challenge of climate change. For the future of Canada, we've got to start to consider the Greens."
Weaver said the endorsement left him "speechless."
"He's been an inspiration for me in my scientific career. This is an extraordinary moment for me."
— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press