Legislation to create a single 13 per cent sales tax in Ontario passed third and final reading Wednesday despite strong objections and delaying tactics by the Opposition.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told the legislature that blending the five per cent goods and services tax with the provincial tax will lower costs for businesses, allowing them to cut prices for consumers and hire more staff.
"Doing nothing is not an option [and] the status quo is just absolutely the wrong thing," Duncan said in third-reading debate.
"This package will create jobs."
The government estimates the harmonized sales tax (HST) will help create almost 600,000 jobs in Ontario over the next decade.
In an interview from Mumbai, India, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he is convinced the HST is critical to help reposition Ontario as it comes out of a recession in which the province lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
"I think people understand in their heart of hearts that our world has changed and the old world is not coming back," said McGuinty.
"There are a number of things that we need to do to adjust to the new reality and secure a better future for our families, and one of those is to put in place a modern, competitive tax system."
The opposition parties failed to convince the government to hold public hearings on the HST bill across the province, and accused the Liberals of being afraid to face a voter backlash against the new tax.
The Liberals used their majority "to ram through the HST bill as quickly as possible and with little debate as possible," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Tory attempts to block HST fail
The Progressive Conservatives reluctantly admitted defeat after weeks of trying to block the HST, including a 44-hour occupation of the legislature by two Tories, asking for frequent votes to delay proceedings, and repeatedly calling McGuinty a liar.
"When the Liberals walked out of committee hearings, they hammered home their contempt of those in this chamber, and in the public, who dared to get in the way of their rush to whatever is left in our wallets," Opposition critic Lisa MacLeod told the legislature.
"Some may talk about antics, they may disparage stunts and they may even dismiss this fight against the HST. For them I feel regret."
The legislation also includes cuts to corporate and income taxes that take effect Jan. 1, and one-time rebates of up to $1,000 for some families to offset the impact of the HST, which takes effect July 1.
The Tories call the HST a greedy tax grab and complain it will apply to many items exempt from the PST, including gasoline, home heating fuel and cable TV bills.
British Columbia is also set to merge its provincial sales tax with the GST on July 1, something New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have already done.