Bakers Journal

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Canadians head south to avoid HST


July 2, 2010
By The Canadian Press

July 2, 2010, SURREY, B.C. – Ross Dayton considers himself one of Canada's biggest fans,
but no amount of true patriot love can keep him loyal to the loonie now that
the harmonized sales tax is on the bill in British Columbia.

SURREY, B.C. – Ross Dayton considers himself one of Canada's biggest fans,
but no amount of true patriot love can keep him loyal to the loonie now that
the harmonized sales tax is on the bill in British Columbia.

“I don't shop up in Canada anymore,” the Surrey, B.C., resident said as he
watched cars settle into an hours-long holiday lineup at the Pacific border
crossing near Vancouver.

From July 1 onward, the 44-year-old school maintenance worker plans to make
one to two southern shopping trips every week for upwards of 30 per cent
savings on everything from motorcycle parts to clothing to products for his
wife's hair salon.

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Combined with already lower American prices, a jug of milk in Washington
state now rings in at about half the price it costs a mere 15-minute drive away
in Dayton's home province of B.C.

“(The HST is) absolutely a huge motivator, I'm amazed that this law has gone
through,” he said Thursday. “I'm a fool not to take advantage.”

While the nation was celebrating its 143rd birthday, consumers in British Columbia and
Ontario were unwrapping the new tax that shifts costs from business to the
individual's purse. The HST merges the federal Goods and Services Tax with
provincial retail tax, meaning shoppers must now pay a levy on many items they
never have before.

While government asserts the tax will spur investment and create jobs, many
waiting patiently in idling vehicles mused that escaping the hot-button levy
could have the opposite effect.

“It's counterproductive to the economy,” said Nicole George, 34, from
Vancouver.

“People are already going across the border to get their deals, now they're
going to be pushed there even more – it's unfortunate.”

Michelle Pureza's family was hoping to pick up new clothes, shoes and
anything else they liked if it meant a good deal, she said.

“I guess everybody is trying to do that too,”said the 22-year-old, sitting
in the back seat in a station wagon with her two snoozing sisters, while her
parents nodded up front.

Dennis Mayer, who was driving from New Westminster, B.C. in a camper with
his 14-year-old son Robin, chuckled he's getting a two-in-one deal skipping out
on the tax by going on holiday.

“I feel sorry for the people who are going to pay it, because I'm not going
to be doing it for a month at least,” he said, adding he made sure to sign the
popular anti-HST petition circulated by a grassroots campaign aiming to repeal
the tax in B.C.

“I hope when I come back it's not there!”

Others shook their heads at what some people will do to scrimp.

“I think these people are really smart,” Chuck Luttrell dead-panned. “They're
spending $25 to $30 on gas waiting to get into the border to save about 10
bucks. It's the stupidest darn thing.”

He hoped the incoming hit to the wallet would persuade people to make
smarter shopping decisions.

“It doesn't bother me. And the reason why is because if you choose to live
simply or simpler, you will actually save money with the HST.”

But mountain ranges and four provinces east, Ontario shoppers watching
living costs climb were instead adopting the laid-back response more often
found on the West Coast.

“I didn't even think about it,” said Dean Piercey as he strolled through the
Toronto Eaton Centre with bags in hand. “There's not much I can do about it
now.”

Outside a hair salon, Morgan and Amanda Gidge surveyed their new
HST-inclusive bill.

“It doesn't bother me too much; I'm sure with bigger tickets items it will,”
said Amanda Gidge.

“It will just be one more thing that will kind of bother me when I want to
go shopping,” said Morgan Gidge, shrugging.

Pondering potential longer-term repercussions, however, Samantha Edwards
said she's worried how the HST will impact her family.

“My work has died down, so I'm wondering if it's scaring away clients,” said
the 41-year-old graphic designer. “It's going to make my invoices look huge.”

Politicians, meanwhile, took a break from shaking hands and kissing
red-swaddled babies on Canada Day to get a word in.

“It's not a Canada Day for people to celebrate. People are really unhappy
about the HST; they know it's going to hit them hard in the pocketbook,” said
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Contrary to more than 700,000 constituents who signed the anti-HST petition
in opposition, the B.C. government released a statement heralding the HST as “the
right move at the right time.”

The government says British Columbia businesses will save about $2 billion in costs
through the HST, resulting in an $11.5 billion increase in capital investment
and 113,000 new jobs by the end of the coming decade.