Stephen Harper's Conservatives wish to have it both ways. For years, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has lobbied the provinces to harmonize their sales taxes with the federal goods and services tax. Now that two provinces have complied, some Conservatives are shrinking from the ensuing controversy. Don't blame us, they're saying; it was all the provinces' idea.
Given the rigid message control by the Prime Minister's Office, it could have put a stop to this. Instead, it piled on. “If any Ontarian is concerned about this provincial decision, they should contact his or her MPP,” Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Mr. Harper, said late last week. “We said that we would accept the decision of any provincial government to proceed with the harmonization of the sales tax, but ultimately the decision is a decision that needs to be made by the provinces.”Straight out of the deepest darkest recesses of the very political PMO, Soudas hangs the provinces out to dry. Confirmation of the political intent from on high. Lesson once again confirmed, you just can't trust Stephen Harper. How'd you like to be on a life raft with these guys?
Mr. Flaherty made clear what he wanted the provinces to do. His 2008 budget called harmonization “the single most important step” that provinces could take to improve competitiveness. He repeated that message at various points last year, acknowledging that he was “gently nudging” Ontario in particular. It has been widely reported that he actively negotiated with the provinces to ensure that compensation from the federal government – which turned out to be $4.3-billion for Ontario and $1.6-billion for B.C. – was enough to convince them. (emphasis added)
More material for the campaign flyers, looks like it will be needed.