Aug 8, 2010

The Smart Tax Alliance. Non-Partisan? Really?


Last Thursday BC newspapers carried a large ad supporting implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax.  The advertisement was signed by the “Smart Taxation Alliance” a group of 30 or so employer organizations.

The ad carried the usual dubious arguments that transferring the cost of taxes from corporations to consumers will create vast economic activity.  What intrigued me was the line:

The Smart Tax Alliance is a non-partisan alliance of 30 business and industry groups formed to support the job-creating benefits of the HST.

I was curious what they meant by “non-partisan” so I turned first to my trusty Oxford Canadian dictionary which defines partisan as:

An adherent or supporter of a party, person, or cause, esp. a zealous supporter.

Now the ad makes it clear these guys are zealous supporters of the HST so I am pretty sure they are not talking about that.

No, I suspect what the ad is trying to suggest is that the group is “non-partisan” in the political perspective: In BC terms that means the choice between the NDP and the Liberals.

This made me more curious.  Fortunately Elections BC has just the tool on their web site to help me with that.  They have a search engine that allows you to find out how much people have donated and to whom they have made the donations.  The search engine can be found here.

It turns out that about half of the Alliance’s members had made direct contributions to political parties in 2009, the year of the last provincial election.  This came to a total of $529,000 to the Liberals, and $23,000 to the NDP.  The NDP got slightly less than 5% of the money that went to the Liberals.  The New Car Dealers gave $275,000 to the Liberals.  They also threw $10,000 the way of the NDP.

Some of the groups that had not made direct contributions to the Liberals in 2009 also had some fairly strong indications of partisanship.  The Business Council of BC, for example, spent nearly $100,000 advertising in support of the government in the run up to the 2009 election.  The Railway Association of Canada made no donations to the Liberals in 2009 but CN Rail, CP Rail and Southern Rail among them gave $50,000 to the Liberals.  Similarly, the Coal Association made no donation but separate coal companies did.  Initiative Prince George is a municipally owned economic development body.  They didn’t donate any money to political parties in 2009, but they did get $68,000 from the provincial government according to the Public Accounts.

Not surprisingly, six of the organizations involved in the “Smart Tax Alliance” are also involved in the legal action attempting to overturn the results of the Anti-HST petition campaign.  The Vancouver Sun reports these six organizations gave $162,000 to the Liberal Party since 2005 and nothing to the NDP.

Many business organizations have good reason to support the HST.  It’s natural that they would want to unload taxes they are paying onto consumers.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  Big business in BC has now become the advertising arm of an increasingly desperate Liberal Party.

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