Raising a consumer tax isn’t exactly the kind of pledge you expect from a politician.
In voicing a call to eventually raise the GST back to seven per cent, perhaps Martha Hall Findlay, a federal Liberal leadership hopeful, is conceding she’s far from a front-runner and can afford to make a political point. In any case, it’s an interesting one to make.
In making the announcement Thursday, Findlay acknowledged she was sticking her neck out. The Conservatives – who at least pretend to be fiscally conservative – are bound to pounce on a murmer of tax increase.
It’s obviously one of those positions that could never brim with popularity – like the opposite, for example, promising to lower it. But then, politicians are starting to remind Canadians that many political decisions are tough and not at all popular.
On her side, Findlay said, would be many economists who warned that the Harper government’s move, a cent at a time, to lower the tax to five per cent, was not sound.
On that note, consumers did feel a bit of relief, but it would be interesting to know how much less the current federal deficit might be if the GST had been left as-is. Findlay says the reduction made a deficit inevitable even before the 2008 recession hit. She also said her view of a hike would be to help pay down the national debt.
Nova Scotians, of course, have every right to be nervous about any sales tax hike, having seen the current government implement a two per cent increase not long after being elected. Although certainly not popular, neither did it incur all-out wrath. The provincial NDP now, however, having cleared some fiscal hurdles, have been hinting at the possibility of restoring the provincial tax to eight per cent.
It couldn’t happen too soon. Admittedly it’s too early to entertain the prospect of Findlay – or anyone else open to a GST hike – coming to power. But if it happened, the thought of a possible seven-plus-ten tax ringing up at the cash register is pretty scary.