Your Insights on the End of the HST

British Columbians are still divided over the HST (52% support it being extinguished; 37% oppose) and there is a lack of optimism as to the impact scrapping the tax will have on the BC economy (28% anticipate a benefit versus 39% a negative impact) and on personal finances (38% anticipate a benefit, 15% a negative impact).

Vancouver, BC – A recent Insights West online poll surveyed 867 BC adults regarding their opinions on the end of the HST shortly before the tax was extinguished. Overall support versus opposition results echo those of the referendum itself, with a slim majority of British Columbians supporting (52% total support, 28% strongly support) the scrapping of the HST. But even though the change back to the PST/GST system is a done deal as of today, there is still a large minority who oppose the change, and many of those in opposition are strongly opposed (37% in total oppose; 25% strongly). (The remaining 11% were unsure).

Results from the poll indicate that BC adults are not entirely certain that the change back to the PST/GST will necessarily benefit the BC economy in general, and there is only slightly greater optimism about the impact on their personal finances.

There are significantly fewer British Columbians who believe the end of the HST will benefit the BC economy (28% total; 8% a lot) compared to the number who believe it will harm the BC economy (39%; 11% a lot). (21% anticipate that there will be no impact on the BC economy and 13% are unsure). In contrast, while still not a majority, a larger percentage think it will help their own personal finances – 38% anticipate their personal financial situation will benefit from the scrapping of the HST (7% a lot) compared to just 15% who feel it will hurt their personal finances. (35% anticipated it would have no effect and 12% were unsure).

“It appears that more British Columbians are confident that the change back to the PST/GST will result in consumers paying less for goods and services than there are British Columbians who are confident that the change will actually be good for the broader economy,” comments Catherine Dawson, Senior Vice President, Insights West.

As could be expected, those who oppose the end of the HST are naturally far more negative about its possible consequences (both on the economy in general and their own finances) than those who support it. A large majority of those who oppose the HST being scrapped think it will hurt the BC economy (80%) while one-in-three (32%) believe it will hurt their own personal finances. This compares to just 13% of supporters who believe it will hurt the BC economy and 3% that it will have a negative impact on their own personal finances.

To understand how the change in sales tax in BC might affect different areas of spending, the poll asked if British Columbians plan to buy/spend more or less on 20 different products and services after the demise of the HST, or if there would be no impact on their spending. The 20 items were a mix of those that would be taxed at a lower rate post-HST and those that would not be.

Generally, British Columbians anticipate that their buying behaviour will not be affected that much, with a large majority (between 55% and 80% depending on the item) indicating that the change in sales tax situation would have no impact. Of the 20 items, increased spending seems most likely to happen for restaurant meals (31% will increase their spending, 55% no impact, 7% will spend less and 7% don’t know) and tickets for entertainment events (20% will increase their spending, 66% no impact, 5% spend less and 10% don’t know).

“Most British Columbians are apparently not willing to commit to the idea of spending more, which may reflect a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude towards how the change will ultimately impact the price of various goods and services,” comments Dawson. “Results may also suggest some confusion about how the tax rates on particular items will change. Greater willingness to spend on restaurant meals versus the other items we tested may be due to higher general awareness that the tax rate will decrease when they dine out, perhaps due to more media coverage on the topic,” she continues.

Naturally, those who support the HST being extinguished tend to be more likely to predict an increase in their spending on all 20 items versus those who oppose it. Among supporters, a large minority will spend more on restaurant meals (44%) and entertainment events (29%) in particular (compared to just 18% and 10%, respectively, of those who oppose the change).

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has eight full-time and five part-time employees.

Results are based on an online study conducted from March 26 – 31, 2013, among 867 residents of BC aged 18+ who are Your Insights panel members. YourInsights.ca is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for BC for age and gender. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. To view the detailed data tabulations, click here.

For further information, please contact:

Catherine Dawson
Senior Vice President, Insights West
604-620-7101
catherinedawson@insightswest.com