Thursday, September 2, 2010

HST revelations discredit B.C. Liberals - Hansen vs. the truth.

The Daily News: Thursday, September 2, 2010

We don't yet know who, but someone has lied to us.

It's time for the provincial Liberal government to provide answers about when they started negotiations with Ottawa regarding the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Yesterday, it was revealed provincial bureaucrats had been discussing the HST with their federal counterparts prior to the May 12, 2009, election.

Senior B.C. government officials began discussing the HST with Ottawa almost two months before the provincial election and far earlier than the B.C. Liberals have previously acknowledged, newly released documents show.

The documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information request released Wednesday, outline e-mail correspondence between provincial and federal bureaucrats concerning the HST between March and May 2009.

The documents fly in the face of numerous claims by Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen that the HST was not on the B.C. Liberal's radar screen prior to the election.

Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon, who was in the provincial cabinet before the election, also insisted that talk of merging the provincial sales tax with the federal Goods and Services Tax was non-existent at the time.

In June, during an interview with the editorial board of the Nanaimo Daily News, Cantelon said the government's mishandling of the HST's introduction "verifies the fact that we didn't plan on this."

If the premier, finance minister and other members of cabinet didn't know these negotiations were going on, then we have to ask just who is in charge of the government: the MLAs or the appointed bureaucrats that seemingly can hijack policy in B.C?

Hansen is on the record as saying that the first time the B.C. government formally expressed interest to Ottawa about the HST was on May 25, 2009, when he ran into federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at a finance ministers' meeting in Meech Lake, Que. He told the legislature in November that there had been no discussion at any level between finance staff and the federal government.

The e-mails clearly show that merging the GST with the B.C. PST was under active discussion among Hansen's staff prior to the election, and that talks began between staff in Ottawa and Victoria on March 26, 2009, the day the Ontario government announced its provincial budget and HST deal.

Liberal MLAs knew, or were blatantly incompetent and should have known, that B.C bureaucrats were cooking up a deal behind MLAs' backs.

We remain skeptical because it's inconceivable that bean-counting B.C. bureaucrats would enter into HST discussions with Ottawa without the knowledge of their political masters? If the politicians didn't know this was taking place, they sure as heck should have known.

To give Cantelon the benefit of the doubt, he was obviously out of the loop of the machinations taking place to bring in the HST.

How rigorously -- if at all -- he grilled Hansen, a fellow member of cabinet, about the HST will never be known due to the concept of cabinet confidentiality.

Perhaps the Parksville-Qualicum MLA had been duped like the rest of us.

It defies credulity but remains possible.

Even so, what does that say about our representative at the B.C. legislature?

Not only do these recent revelations discredit the B.C. Liberals, they further fuel Bill Vander Zalm and opponents to the HST.


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.