In this campaign the New Democrats are clearly targeting one man — Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil. The NDP advertisements focus almost exclusively on McNeil and his record. But are those ads accurate?
An advertisement that's getting a lot of airtime is one that attacks McNeil's record on putting the harmonized sales tax, or HST, back on home energy bills.
Here's a claim in that ad:
"We do know McNeil and his Liberals have voted to put the HST on home energy again and again and again."
The advertisement lists eight times that McNeil and the Liberals supposedly voted against removing the HST from home heating bills. Here's the reality:
In the first two years listed in the advertisement — 1996 and 1999 — McNeil wasn't even an MLA. He didn't win a seat in the legislature until 2003. Even with that information, we couldn't find eight votes on removing the HST from your power bills so we contacted the New Democratic Party.
A party spokesman conceded that of the eight "votes" cited in the ad, four weren't votes at all — they were simply statements made during or near election campaigns. There were four actual votes in the legislature and all were budget bills which involved hundreds of spending items, including the HST.
As with all advertising, you also have to look at what the advertisement doesn't say. In this case, there's one vote the NDP chose to ignore. On May 7, 2013, with an election looming, McNeil introduced a motion in the legislature asking all three parties to commit to keeping the HST off home heating bills.
That motion passed unanimously, which means all three parties — the New Democrats, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives — are on the official record, promising to keep the HST off heating bills.
So that's the reality.
On harmonized sales tax:
For the record, here is each party's position regarding the HST:
The New Democratic Party says it will reduce the harmonized sales tax by one per cent next year and another one per cent in 2015 to get it down to 13 per cent. It's also promising to increase exemptions to include more so-called essential items like car seats and strollers.
The Progressive Conservative platform is similar — a two per cent reduction phased in over two years. They promise to maintain current exemptions but are not promising any new ones.
The big difference is with the Liberals. They, too, are promising to keep current exemptions but they say there will be no cut to the HST until they have a balanced budget with enough of a surplus to pay for the tax cut.
That could take some time. It's estimated that each one per cent cut in the HST costs the province about $195 million in revenue, so there would have to be a significant surplus before the Liberals start cutting the harmonized sales tax.