Wilkinson handed job of selling harmonized sales tax

In perhaps the most significant move of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet shuffle last week, Perth-Well­ington MPP John Wilkinson was named the new Revenue Minister.

Wilkinson says he looks forward to his new role, despite the challenge of selling to Ontarians the government’s decision to introduce the harmonized sales tax (HST).

“If people know the whole story, a lot of their anxiety about [the HST] goes away,” Wilkinson told the Wellington Advertiser on Monday.

First selected by McGuinty in October of 2007 as Research and Innovation Minister, Wilkinson is now the face of the 13 per cent tax that takes effect on July 1, 2010.

McGuinty agreed to melding the 8 per cent provincial sales tax with the 5 per cent federal GST during discussions with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last winter.

The new blended tax was touted by the government as business-friendly and “the single most important” factor in strengthening the economy, but it was nonetheless met with criticism by the media and many taxpayers.

Wilkinson explained that a lot of people are unaware that along with the implementation of the HST next summer also comes some of the largest personal income tax cuts in dec­ades. As part of a larger strategy by the government to improve the economy, he said the new HST will cut costs for businesses as well as the government, and he looks forward to explaining the process to taxpayers.

“This will make our businesses more competitive on the global stage,” he said.

Wilkinson, who is from Stratford and has been an MPP for about six years, will rely heavily on over two decades of personal experience as a financial planner – during which one of his jobs was to explain taxes to clients – in his new role as revenue minister.

And he also sees parallels between his new post and his previous three years with the Ministry of Research and Innovation, where a big part of his job was “implementing and communicating” changes.

“That’s exactly what I have to do as the Minister of Reve­nue,” he said.

Despite his eagerness to get started and his dedication to his new role, Wilkinson stressed his priority remains his own riding.

“My first job is to be a good MPP for the people of Perth-Wellington,” he said, adding its the voters who afforded him the opportunity to become an MPP, which then opened the door to become a minister.