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NEWS RELEASE · 2nd September 2010
BC NDP
Reality Check: HST Documents - The Truth Shatters B.C. Liberal Claims

Government documents released Wednesday show the truth behind many B.C. Liberal false claims regarding the HST:

The HST wasn’t on their radar before the election

The claim:

"The harmonized sales tax was not on our radar. We said it was not part of our election platform and it wasn't."

- Finance Minister Colin Hansen (Times Colonist), July 28, 2009

"The fact of the matter is it wasn’t on our radar. We didn’t engage in any discussions. I wasn’t thinking about it until after the election.”

- Gordon Campbell (The World Today, CKNW), Aug. 7, 2009

The reality:


A briefing note to the finance minister dated March 12, 2009, two months before the election, shows that he was briefed by staff on the impacts of an HST in B.C.

Premier Gordon Campbell had also been given a January 2009 briefing note on the HST before he went to the Council of the Federation (of Canadian premiers) meeting.

The HST was the best thing for the B.C. economy


The claim:

“[The HST] is the single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.’s economy.”

- Premier Gordon Campbell (News Release), July 23, 2009


“…The HST is the single biggest thing that's actually going to stimulate the economy and create jobs in this province.”

- Finance Minister Colin Hansen (Hansard), May 30, 2010

The reality:


A March 2009 briefing note to the finance minister says “there are also studies showing potential short-term economic costs. Given current economic conditions, this could be a concern.”

The briefing note continues, “The [C.D. Howe] study suggests that it may take five or more years before the impact on [gross domestic product] is positive and even longer for real wages and job numbers to recover.”

The Federal government was not flexible on the HST rate until after the election

The claim:

“So until the discussions that took place after the election, the provincial government was not aware of the fact that the federal government was prepared to entertain a rate other than 13 per cent.”

- Finance Minister Colin Hansen (Hansard), May 18, 2010

The reality:

E-mail exchanges between ministry of finance officials and the Public Affairs Bureau discuss the minister’s briefing note being updated on March 26, 2009, to include information on the MOU between the province of Ontario and the federal government. The MOU explicitly details the flexibility with respect to the rate of sales tax charged.

They did not discuss the HST with the federal government before the election

The claim:

New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston: “Then, to conclude on this topic, what the minister is saying — and I just want to make sure I have it right — is that from the date of the early discussion of HST, the public discussion by the minister and the premier of Ontario in January 2009, until after the election — and I believe he refers to a conversation with the finance minister at the end of May — there was no discussion either by the minister or his officials of the implementation of an HST. Is that the minister's position then?”

Finance Minister Colin Hansen: “That is correct.”

Ralston: “And by discussion, I mean personal contact, face-to-face, or any exchange of memos at the deputy minister level or through the e-mail network or anything. There's simply no discussion at any level between the minister of finance, his officials and the Premier and his office and his officials about the HST between January, when it was first raised publicly in Ontario, and the end of May. Is that the minister's position?”



Hansen: “That is correct.”

- exchange in the legislature (Hansard), Nov. 23, 2009

The reality:

March 2009 emails between federal and provincial assistant deputy ministers of finance and other officials discuss updates to HST briefing notes for the B.C. finance minister. On March 18, an email from the ADM for the B.C. finance ministry states the briefing note is “an important piece.”