It Tastes Awful. And it Works.
Tim Hudak, who used to think the HST was a nifty idea and probably still does deep down inside, has spent the last year crusading against it. Twelve of the twenty press releases he's put out in June have specifically mentioned the HST. It's abundantly obvious Hudak wants to make the next election all about the HST, as he tries to become Ontario's version of Bill Vander Zalm.
McGuinty, meanwhile, has fought back with a TV ad:
In it, Dalton sits in the backyard and talks about the HST, calling it "strong medicine". I guess they've gone the Buckley's route on this one - "It tastes awful. And it works".
So it's cough medicine up against cotton candy. While voters generally prefer cotton candy, the Ontario Grits appear to be gambling that voters will trust the guy telling them the cough medicine will make their cough go away more than the guy telling them cotton candy will work just as well. That's why McGuinty is being featured prominently in the ads. Make him look like a strong leader who makes tough choices. He's the decider.
Personally, I don't doubt for a second the HST is good policy. Every expert says it is. Hell, Jim Flaherty says it is and he won an award for being the greatest Finance Minister ever or something like that.
Moving beyond all the rhetoric, I think it's clear some people will come out ahead and some will wind up behind. Some things will cost more and more will cost less. Why I think the province as a whole will come out ahead is that it will eliminate a lot of inefficiencies.
Revenue Minister John Wilkinson, who has the unenviable job of selling the HST, has a great anecdote about this. Currently, hospitals pay PST on bathroom supplies for visitor bathrooms...but not for patient bathrooms. So the Ontario government is literally paying people to inspect how toilet paper is used. He jokes about money being flushed down the drain, but I can think of more colourful metaphors to use.
It's for reasons like that I feel this will be a good move for Ontario on the whole. Politically, it all depends on whether Ontarians are willing to hold their noses and swallow the Buckley's.