The howls against the new Harmonized Sales Tax are the loudest from British Columbia and Ontario, where the HST takes effect next July, but there’s also a cautious mood on the prairies, one of the last areas in Canada that has yet to approve the blending of the PST and GST.
The HST is apparently in a holding pattern in Manitoba with Premier Gary Doer stepping down to become Canada’s ambassador to Washington and candidates for the vacant position he leaves now emerging, one of them being provincial Minister of Finance Greg Selinger.
Some suspect that Selinger will get behind the HST and the transitional money that comes from Ottawa to implement the tax, but for now, it’s unlikely any candidate for the job of Premier is going to touch that hot button.
Janet Jones, regional director for the Prairie Chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association, says the HST could become a topic at the chapter meeting scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Golf Dome in Winnipeg.
“When I do my calls, we talk about it. We talk about the fact that, basically, it would be a seven per cent increase straight across the board on green fees and memberships,” she said.
“In Saskatchewan, it would be five percent, but it’s also in Saskatchewan on restaurant meals, which currently are not PST, so there are two hits there,” added Jones.
“The other challenge is that increases in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where golf is probably the cheapest across the country, a seven per cent increase – and this is one of the biggest concerns is some of it’s going to have to get eaten.
“(Golf courses) normally might increase their dues three per cent, so not only is the consumer paying more, but it’s really taking it out of the pocket of the operator,” she added.
While there is concern on the prairies, it hasn’t reached the point of loud protest, she says, but that could change if the implementation of the HST becomes reality.
“I get some people thinking it’s not going to happen,” she said. “I think it’s they’re thinking it’s not going to happen in the short term and I don’t disagree because of this political issue.”
However, now may be the time to formulate a strategy to deal with the HST.
“The question is how do you inform the consumer that it’s not you that’s sucking up all the money,” she said. “The information campaign is what we’ve talked about.
“I don’t know if people really believe it can be stopped, but if it’s going to come, then how do you best inform the consumer that is from your government, thank you very much, not from us because there’s always that impression that golf courses are raking in the money when we’re not,” she said.
One tool that’s available to the Prairies that hasn’t been to other provinces that have already come under the HST is golf’s economic impact study released recently by the National Allied Golf Association that paints a positive picture of the game in terms of employment, taxes and other contributions.
“There’s potential for that to be able to show the facts,” said Jones. “There are the numbers that everybody always talked about, but we didn’t have.
“If we wait too long, we lose the opportunity for a say. If (the HST) gets wheels on it, it will barrel along.”