On radio Monday, BC Liberal spokesman Keith Baldrey may have launched a trial balloon when he talked of a possible strategy for dealing with the HST dilemma. He said that, after the government’s business allies lost their court challenge, Colin Hansen again opened the door to further exemptions from HST.
“If they could pull off an agreement, . . . if they could open the agreement or bring in more exemptions, perhaps even knock a point off this thing, by the time we get closer to the next election, that may very well take the sting out of the impact of the tax for a lot of people.”
Liberals assumed that public anger would subside once HST became effective, counting on support from media allies and a series of releases from business supporters, economists and party members posing as ordinary citizens. The hired guns stumbled badly though. The controvertible Fraser Institute issued a report favoring HST that was quickly and widely discredited. Economists the Liberals hired had to admit that price reductions from tax savings were uncertain, depending on competitive factors and industry pricing influences. The putative experts were seen as tax promoters, not explainers.
The government has been trying to sell stories with its credibility reserves exhausted. They wouldn’t admit the tax change was a gift to business, mostly mega-corporations they had rewarded frequently already. Large distortions in the pre-election budget had been revealed and the Liberal claim that HST consideration began only in the days after voting was implausible.
More than anything, BC Liberals are suffering ling chi, death by a thousand cuts. The BC Rail story that they refused to address for years is escapable no more. The excessive influence of lobbyists is beyond denial and the focus of power within the Premier’s circle has left the remainder of the Liberal cabinet and caucus looking inconsequential.The original aim of modest renewable energy projects has been overwhelmed by big money players, most from outside the province. The pretense of green policies is lost amid river and fishery destruction and an unprecedented push to build massive bridge, road and pipeline projects. Can a spanking new 10 lane super-bridge soaring over the mighty Fraser be the symbol of a green government?
The idea of tinkering with HST and playing for time to postpone Campbell’s end is the strategy of a defeated group that remains unwilling to concede its failure. A reduction of one tax point will not impress anyone since it can be so easily undone. Granting further tax exemptions would only add to Colin Hansen’s credibility problem since he made numerous declarations that further adjustments would not be tolerated by Ottawa. The voters could only ask, “Were you lying then, or lying now?”