Diners are paying more to eat out in B.C. and restaurant owners say the HST is to blame.
The price of restaurant meals in B.C. this year has risen at three times the national average, according to the latest Consumer Price Index figures from Statistics Canada.
Restaurant meals have risen 7.5 per cent, compared to a national average of 2.5 per cent, the figures reveal.
Over the same period, supermarket food prices have been stable or even dropped slightly.
It’s all about the HST, said Ian Tostenson, head of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Service Association.
The new seven-per-cent tax, which replaced the provincial sales tax, was imposed July 1 and is applied to restaurant meals, which the PST was not.
“Restaurants had no way to save money,” said Tostenson. “All they can do is pass on that seven per cent.”
A spokeswoman for the B.C. ministry of finance said there are likely factors other than the HST driving up the cost of restaurant meals, including energy, labour and transportation.
But Tostenson wasn’t buying that explanation.
“That is entirely the result of HST,” he said.
A binding referendum on the HST is currently scheduled for September 2011, although some candidates to replace Premier Gordon Campbell have promised to hold the provincewide vote sooner.