August 15, 2011
The following are my comments on the article about the underground economy and the request to the provincial government to bring back a home renovation tax cut as published in the July issue of Horticulture Review.

The idea of a home renovation tax cut seems logical, but it is not the solution. Taxes are too high! There comes a point when people feel that they are paying too much tax and they want a break. It is that simple.

I do not blame our customers for asking for a break on the HST. When I look at the amount of tax on our invoices compared to what we used to charge with just the GST, I am shocked. This Liberal provincial government has been in revenue-grabbing mode since day one.  Remember before they first were elected, they promised to not increase taxes during the campaign? We voted for them and the result was a huge regressive personal tax increase called the health tax, which hit lower income earners far worse than higher income earners — so much for a progressive income tax.

We voted for them a second time and the result was a huge tax grab called the HST. I am all for this tax, as it creates a simpler and better tax for business.  However, when you tax more things, the rate should have been brought down to be revenue neutral. A fair rate would have been 11 per cent not the 13 per cent we currently pay. What is that old expression? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. You can guess what will happen if they are elected for a third term.  

If Landscape Ontario really wants to get involved to fight the underground economy, then it needs to lobby the government to lower taxes, and permanently. Asking for a specific credit for our industry just won’t do it. We need to start educating the members about economics and that raising taxes eventually reduces government revenues. It slows economic growth which over time affects all of us.

Let’s face it, landscaping is not an essential service, and when the economy slows down we will see our revenues drop. This puts pressure on pricing, lowering margins as well. An economy with reasonable levels of taxation creates a sustainable environment for all of us to prosper, with greater government revenues over time.

We also need to be realistic in asking government for help. The reason taxes are so high is that we have too many government programs which we cannot afford. Asking for another one creates an uneven playing field favouring one group over another, which in the long term creates a poorly functioning economy that leaves us all to suffer.

I encourage Landscape Ontario to get involved with as many groups as possible in the next provincial election this fall, and let our voices be heard. We want lower taxes and we are willing to accept lower government spending!  If not, we will end up in the same shape as Greece, where tax evasion is a way of life and the government is completely broke.

Marc Arnold
Rockcliffe Landscaping, Ottawa