May 2, 2012
Alison Redford made history this week as she became the first woman elected as Premier of Alberta. Premier Redford’s election should provide a glimmer of hope for BC Premier Christy Clark who is facing a similar challenge here. It was interesting to see that all the pollsters and the media pundits got it wrong and at the end of the day Albertans chose a government that was familiar to them. It also seems to me Alberta voted for someone that was more representative of its’ aspirations and outlook and clearly it was not the Wild Rose Party which in the last week had some embarrassing moments with its’ candidates making inappropriate remarks. So as our election draws closer, the only poll that I will be watching is the one on Election Day.
Mar 12, 2012
Minister Mary Polak held her annual fundraising dinner last week and it was great to see people from a wide range of backgrounds attending the event including well known personalities from our defending Grey Cup Champions, BC Lions.A speech by high profile Conservative Party Senator Gerry St. Germain was a reminder that the BC Liberal Party coalition enjoyed broad support. The Conservative Senator told the audience that the Party could not sit on their laurels and it was time to work hard to keep the NDP out. Health Minister Mike de Jong, former Cabinet Minister Patty Sahota from Burnaby and other MLAs were present to lend their support. Minister de Jong, the MC for the event, was his usual witty self and stole the show with his punchy one-liners. But not to be outdone, the after dinner speaker was Lorne Cardinal, the star from the hit comedy series Corner Gas as he showed off his Canadiana brand Gemini Award winning stand up comedy. Mayor of City of Langley, Peter Fassbender, and Mayor of the Township of Langley, Jack Froese, was also on hand to show their support for their local MLA.
Jul 6, 2010
For the last few weeks, I have been bombarded with messages that the world was going to end on July 1st. According to all the news reports, political columnists and pundits the world as we know it would come to a
halt on Canada Day. We’re well into the 1st week of July and it looks like I’m still around. The sun is shining. People are out and about shopping. Local coffee shops look busy and so do many of the restaurants. People are still buying and consuming goods. Yes, the HST is here and life hasn’t stopped.
In fact, there are some businesses that have, as a result of the HST, reduced prices to the consumers already. Yes, this may come as a surprise to lots of people that the prices have actually dropped but that’s something I suggested in my previous article. Let’s take my hotel, the Hampton Inn & Suites in Surrey where the prices have not gone up. Before the HST was implemented, the price for a room was $139 plus taxes which amounted to $159.85. After July 1st the price for the same room is $158.81 so you are saving $1.04. Additionally, for a business traveler, there are more savings under the new tax regime. Prior to July 1st, only claiming the rebate of the PST portion was allowed which would be $10.32 in this example. Under the new tax structure, there is allowance for claiming a rebate on both the PST and GST amount, which would be $16.68 in this case. Trying to understand and learn the new tax structure takes time but I can assure you that prices have not gone up at our hotel after July 1st albeit not by much but everything counts. So, if you want to feel good about paying less taxes, as well as get a bit of pampering, come stay at some of our finest hotels in BC but stay where prices have dropped. I hope to see you at our hotel!
Jun 19, 2010
Last week, BC Liberal Cabinet Minister Blair Lekstrom resigned over the way the Government handled the strategy around the introduction of the HST. This has added another interesting twist to a term that has been filled with many challenges for the Government. The global financial crisis was the biggest challenge the Government faced early on. Revenues plummeted. Expenditures continued to rise. Then the Government introduced the HST and that one tax policy decision has caused anybody who has an axe to grind with the government to unite. No tax is popular but who knew it would be like this.
Mainstream economists agree that the HST is a good tax as it would replace the antiquated and very inefficient PST. Most economies around the world are doing away with it and replacing it with a value added tax like HST. However this public policy decision has had a hefty toll on Premier Gordon Campbell’s personal popularity. The Premier noted this last week at his annual Fundraising dinner which was attended by well over 1400 people.
Thus far, we have had very sound and prudent control of our finances and arguably amongst the best in Canada. We have gone from amongst the highest taxed to amongst the lowest taxation rates in Canada. Further, if things go according to plan, our Province will be amongst the first jurisdictions in Canada and possibly North America to eliminate the budgetary deficit and be back to a balanced budget. This matters because in a competitive market every advantage counts. Balanced budgets, low taxation rates translate into new investments which mean more jobs. The latest unemployment numbers released prove that BC continues to be on the right track.
Failure to take tough action on economic issues can lead to disastrous consequences such as what we are witnessing in Greece which is threatening to destabilize all of Europe. If voters want prudent management of the finances of the economy, there is ample evidence that during Campbell’s leadership our province has gone from a “have not” province from the days of NDP and now to one of the best performing economies in Canada.
Taking tough action is not always very popular but it is in the best interest of our Province in the long run. The road ahead is still bumpy. Consider the prospect of interest rates rising and the problem of excessive debts taken up by some nations will all continue to have impact on our local economy. There are still turbulent and uncertain times ahead but that doesn’t mean we need to abandon our notion of sound fiscal management that we’ve had under the Campbell Liberals. In the mean time, the Government and the Party needs to regroup. They need to go back to the basics. Build the grassroots. Build the base. They must do this as the alternative isn’t pretty.
Apr 8, 2010
Raising the minimum wage is back in the headlines. I don’t understand why this is even an issue, if in B.C. only 4.6 per cent of paid employees are earning minimum wage. I run a hotel business and all my employees are paid more than $10 an hour and what I pay my employees is not driven by minimum wage but what the market is paying for similar jobs. I could never run my business effectively if I paid minimum wage.
Then there are those who believe that raising the minimum wage will reduce poverty. While poverty is an important issue, increasing the minimum wage is not the right way to combat poverty. I think we should focus on another tool to fight poverty: education. I am concerned about the high levels of dropout rates in high schools. Business, labour and government need to work together on addressing this problem, and once the education levels go up, incomes will go up as well, and we will start making a dent in reducing poverty levels. Studies show a correlation between education and poverty and therefore a more effective way to deal with poverty levels is to get our citizens to aspire to be the best educated. I also see the risk that, if we increase minimum wages too much, it is a disincentive for someone to seek a higher education and pursue post-secondary studies or a vocation.
Apr 8, 2010
Harmonized Sales Tax is becoming a worldwide phenomenon and BC will soon be joining this club as of July 1st, 2010. Globally, 130 countries including 29 of the world’s 30 most advanced countries (OECD) already have a value added tax similar to the HST. Most Canadian provinces have it or are thinking about it. The NDP Government in Nova Scotia has just hiked the HST to make it the highest in Canada. As dreadful as the HST is, most countries are pursuing this tax policy because value added taxes like the HST make the economy more productive, it helps creates more jobs and in the long run it helps lower prices. Furthermore, the HST is a more efficient tax and due to its cross audit feature it will catch tax evaders and cheaters.
It surprises me that the introduction of the HST in British Columbia has been met with so much opposition even from the business community which has much to gain. For example, if you are in the restaurant business, HST will be refunded on many goods and services including but not limited to kitchen appliances, linens, cutlery, cooking utensils, chairs electricity and natural gas bills. All of these are subject to PST which is not refundable but the HST legislation will allow businesses to get refund on the PST portion. This could amount to a significant saving to a business in its operating costs and hopefully those savings will be reflected into lower prices for the consumers in the long run. Before that happens, businesses need to understand that the harmonized tax is a better structure then what we have in place today.
Mar 17, 2010
Over the last number of months, there has been a lot of discussion around the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which takes effect July 1, 2010 . I have looked closely at the implications of the HST for my hotel business and I have come to the conclusion that this is a positive step for not only my business but for the hospitality industry as a whole. Let me explain. For example, my hotel buys towels for guest use, purchases plates and spoons for the continental breakfast, shampoo bottles and bars of soap for guest’s personal amenities, laundry detergent to wash towels and sheets and so on. For my 100 room hotel, these items can amount to approximately $200,000 and the PST amount currently levied would be $14,000 (7%). Let’s now suppose I decide to replace the TV sets to flat screen sets which cost approximately $800 each. Replacing 100 TVs in a 100 room hotel would cost $80,000 plus 7% PST or $5,600.
In this example, the total PST paid out would be: $14,000 on regular hotel supplies and $5,600 on capital items like TVs for a total of $19,600 in PST. The $19,600 of PST is an outlay of taxes for my hotel business and it creates an extra burden for hoteliers. Will the implementation of the HST reduce the costs for my business? Yes. As we all know by now, the PST gets harmonized with the GST which will allow businesses like mine to get a rebate for the taxes I pay. Accordingly, under the HST environment my cost of doing business will be $19,600 lower as I will be able to get the tax rebate for the PST portion which I am not able to do now. For this reason, I know a lot of hotels are waiting until after July 1st to purchase capital items like flat screen TVs because they will get a PST tax rebate. These savings are good news for any business. It can also mean good news for creating jobs. In my case, the above savings of $19,600 may mean hiring one more part time desk clerk or hiring an extra bartender for an additional shift. Or I could provide even better service to my guests as I may decide to update the high speed internet system which would require me to hire a local electrical contractor for upgrading.
These arguments hold true for most sectors of the economy and not just the hospitality industry. The HST will reduce the costs for any business. Every business buys supplies, stationary, technology software, or raw materials. Currently, PST is paid on all these items. Once HST is implemented, the PST that is currently paid out will be saved in the form of a rebate. Clearly, HST will be beneficial to all businesses as it reduces operating costs. That’s why I’m so surprised to hear in the news, business owners complaining that the HST is not beneficial for business. I do think it needs to be explained better and once people understand that the amount paid out in taxes will be reduced then they are more likely to be in favor of HST, unless they like paying more taxes.
Feb 17, 2010
The Olympic Games have officially kicked off in Vancouver with a spectacular viewing of Canada to the world. Patty and I attended the Provincial Government’s reception for the opening ceremony at the BC Canada Pavilion. Olympians Simon Whitfiield, Alison Sydor were the guests of honour, along with a number of Cabinet Ministers and MLAs from both sides of the aisle. It was a great surprise to see Premier Campbell drop in after the opening ceremony concluded at the BC Place stadium. The Premier took time to mingle with guests gathered at the top of the Art Gallery with a stunning view of Robson Square and the Zip line. Clearly this was a moment the Premier can take a lot of pride and credit for as this was a night that Canadians across the country celebrated with joy and pride. It was definitely British Columbia ’s turn to shine and in spite of couple of small technical glitches at the opening ceremony it left no doubt that we are a strong and confident country.
A big shout out to our friend, Clifford Marr, who participated in the opening ceremony. Congratulations to all the participants, volunteers and the entire team for giving the world an incredible opening ceremony. Now let’s get on to winning some medals.
Dec 10, 2009
For the past 12 years, the Association of Fundraising Professionals has been honouring British Columbians for their extraordinary charitable work. I was particularly proud to attend this year’s Giving Heart Award luncheon as my 12 year old nephew, Zameer Devraj, was chosen as one of the top three finalists for the 2009 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award. Last year Zameer lost his grandfather, Mansur Tejpar, from a sudden illness, and he wanted to continue the good work started by his grandfather who spent his lifetime raising funds for many worthy causes including the World Partnership Walk. In memory of his grandfather, Zameer put a team together for the World Partnership Walk and together with his team raised a remarkable $43,025.
The luncheon celebration also honoured work of seniors and other youth who are making a big difference in the lives of many people here and around the world. The winners in the Outstanding Youth category were a group of nine young girls, The Angel Wings, who came together in the memory of Cailyn Conci’s mom who lost her battle with breast cancer. The girls spent countless hours volunteering their time at various events in their community and helped raise thousands of dollars for BC Cancer Society. For me, it was inspiring to see our youth today concerned with helping people who are in need and are doing tangible things to make a difference. The Angel Wings and Zameer are not only inspirations to their peers but to everyone else as well.