In this week’s Globe and Mail live discussion between Colin Hansen and others, the Finance Minister claimed a number of things including:
- That BC Liberals made no promise there would be no HST, that it “was not contemplated in the platform.” After the election, he learned “new info re HST”, which led him to believe the government needed to reconsider its position. “Ontario’s move was a big part of it. If Ont had HST and we still had the old PST.” Because of “new info”, Hansen “took that to the Premier and it took him about 2 days to agree.” The Minister said Cabinet later endorsed the idea.
The claim that HST was not on BC Liberal radar is not believable. They tell us that Ontario’s position was an important consideration in moving BC to HST. That and the federal government’s willingness to make a large transition payment. Yet, both these things were known before Gordon Campbell called the 2009 election.
The Ontario budget, delivered in March 2009, states economic assumptions were finalized March 13, 2009. It also states that Canada had agreed to pay Ontario $4.3 billion in return for federal administration of a single value-added tax. Clearly, that transition payment, which is part of the memorandum of agreement between Ontario and Canada, was in the works before March 2009.
Ontario’s HST intentions were known and announced publicly before Premier Campbell asked to dissolve the legislature. On the day he did so, April 14, the 2009 election campaign began. We are expected to believe that, despite salaries around $300,000 a year, senior finance officials didn’t examine what Ontario was doing respecting HST and that BC didn’t have regular policy dialog with Canada largest and richest province.
We also must believe that Gordon Campbell, Colin Hansen and 47 other Liberal MLAs failed to look at the Ontario budget or to consider its impact on this province. Actually, one Cabinet Minister did seem to know something about HST before mid-May although Randy Hawes, Minister for Mining, quickly withdrew a quite detailed statement, saying he had used “wrong terminology.” Jonathan Fowlie reported the original admission:
“During the election period, Ministry of Finance staff were conducting their inquiries regarding the HST and determined that we could set the HST at whatever percentage we wished, we could exempt up to 5% of all goods covered by GST, and there was 1.6 billion dollars available for transition funding,” he wrote, clearly blowing a hole in the long-held government position that discussions did not take place until after the election.
Collin Hansen tried telling his Globe and Mail audience that all details of correspondence between BC and the federal government had been released and it did not reveal evidence of communication before May. According to Dirk Meissner of Canadian Press, “Most of the contents of the emails are blanked out, along with most of the rest of the 817 pages Access to Information officials identified in connection with the request. Was Hansen unaware that the documents released through FOI had been heavily censored? Was there no discussion about what should be censored? Chat participants cornered Hansen on this issue.
Many commentators repeated say that the BC Liberals “promised” there would be no hst. No such promise was ever made! In answer to two of the many questionaires the party received, the answer went out that the hst was not contemplated in the platform. That was true.
[Comment From Rick]
Many think that they were lied to during the election on this issue. Perhaps you can deal with this by releasing publicly the full details and dates of correspondence between your ministry and the feds on this issue, both before and after the election so we can judge for ourselves
This info has already come out thro FOI. There are some who are frustrated that FOI did not produce evidence of communications prior to mid May. That because there was none.
Mr. Hansen – The correspondence you referenced that came out through freedom of information was largely blanked out. It’s not the same as the “full details” that Rick had asked for. A number of media outlets – including The Globe and Mail – have been trying to get more detail through another freedom of information request for many months. Why not release the information? – Justine Hunter, The Globe and Mail
Justine.- we can look at that.
[Comment From Brenton]
“We can look at that” ? Not good enough. Why can’t you promise full transparency on this decision?
FOI rules require some info to be blanked. I will have to look at the documents.
[Comment From Ian]
Foi does not ‘require’ some info to be blanked. It provides the government with the option of blanking or releasing.
As I said to Justine, I will take a look at it.