Moving to a single, 13 per cent sales tax will kill jobs in Ontario and hit consumers hard at a time when they’re already struggling, opposition parties said yesterday as the Liberal government introduced a bill to merge the eight per cent provincial sales tax with the GST.

The harmonized sales tax would take effect next July, but the legislation also includes a series of cuts to income and corporate taxes starting in January — and up to $1,000 in rebate cheques for families to help offset the impact of the new tax in the first year.

The goal of harmonization is to help lower costs for businesses, allowing them to both lower prices for consumers and hire more staff, while the whole slate of tax changes will leave most Ontario residents better off, said Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“This is about building more jobs in the province of Ontario and it’s about building a better future for all Ontarians,” McGuinty told the legislature.

“Under our package of tax reforms, 93 per cent of Ontarians will get a permanent tax cut (and) the average family with an $80,000 income will see a 10 per cent cut in their personal income taxes.”

The income tax cuts will not be enough to offset the impact of the HST, said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak, noting it will add eight per cent to items that until now have been exempt from Ontario’s provincial sales tax.

“This is the biggest sales tax grab in the history of this province,” complained Hudak.

“It will mean that Ontario working families and retirees will pay more for gas for their car, heat for their home and everyday goods and services like getting a haircut or taking their dog to the vet.”

This is exactly the wrong time for the government to be imposing a tax hike in the form of a harmonized sales tax, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“People across this province are telling me this tax will kick them when they’re down,” said Horwath.