The head of Ontario's New Democratic Party visited Ottawa on Friday to stoke opposition to the provincial government's proposed harmonized sales tax (HST).

Andrea Horwath, the party's first female leader, spent the morning telling local residents that the HST would add eight per cent to everything from coffee and donuts to housing and even funerals.

Horwath has called the decision the "wrong tax at the wrong time." Friday marked her first visit to Ottawa as NDP leader.

While the March provincial budget has been touted as 'business-friendly,' many consumers have expressed outrage at the plan to blend the provincial and federal sales tax starting in July 2010.

The move to harmonize the taxes means many items that were previously exempt from the provincial sales tax will become more expensive, including gas haircuts and heating oil.

However, the province will make the following exemptions:

  • Books
  • Diapers, children's clothing and footwear
  • Child booster seats
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • New homes under $350,000

Premier Dalton McGuinty defended harmonizing the two taxes, saying the move will make Ontario's tax system more efficient, in turn helping businesses that have been hit hard by the recession.

Many Ottawa business owners support a single sales tax, a decision many have been lobbying for over the past several years.

They say harmonizing the two taxes will help curb $500 million in loss productivity spent doing the paperwork for both the GST and PST.

The province says it will hand out transition cheques to offset the new 13 per cent harmonized sales tax. Single residents will receive about $300 and families will get $1,000.

In addition, the government has committed bringing in some income tax cuts that will supposedly leave lower and middle-income Ontario families better off.