Ontario’s embattled Liberals should be worried that families are feeling the pinch from the HST amid new figures that show it’s having a big impact on consumer prices, opposition critics said yesterday.

A recent report on inflation shows the government’s rosy projections about the tax were off, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“At the end of the day, we end up still with consumers, regular families, feeling the pinch and paying the price,” she said.

“I fear that (the government’s) biggest concern is how it’s going to affect them electorally, and that’s the shame of it all.”

Statistics Canada reported Friday that consumer prices in Ontario rose 2.9 per cent in July — the largest year-over-year hike among the provinces. It also found that the HST accounted for about 1.3 per cent of that increase.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he wasn’t taken aback by Friday’s figures, which showed the HST pushed Canada’s inflation rate up eight-tenths of a point last month to 1.8 per cent.

“Everybody knew this would happen, and over the course of the year, you’ll see that that number tends to gravitate back to a lower level,” Duncan said. “So there was no surprise.”

Yet in his last budget, Duncan predicted Ontario’s consumer price index in 2010 would be 1.9 per cent, the NDP pointed out.

There was some debate among economists about how far the HST would push up consumer prices, including some whose predictions were more in line with the Statistics Canada figures, Duncan said.

“I think most analysts are saying that inflation will pace downward through the balance of the year,” he said.

In its report, Statistics Canada found Ontario consumers paid more for gasoline, electricity, auto insurance premiums and home renovation costs.

Higher electricity prices and more eco fees are also on the way for Ontario families, said Progressive Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod.

Many people, particularly seniors on fixed incomes, have curbed their spending because the cost of essential items keeps going up, she said.