Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things to watch for: Conservative doublespeak on HST

Update (3:05 p.m.): Below, a 3rd Conservative joins in....

A few points on the phenomenon of Conservatives trying to have it both ways on the HST for political advantage. Big City Lib was sharp in calling attention to this development yesterday. It's something to watch, to see whether disavowal of the HST spreads in Conservative rhetoric or actions.

BCL's blog item dealt mainly with Ontario and Team Hudak trying to pin the move to the harmonized sales tax to McGuinty's Liberals, particularly in light of that upcoming provincial by-election in St. Paul's. But as the reporting notes, the Harper Conservatives have been partners in supporting and encouraging this move. As BCL pointed out, provincial Tory MPP Bill Murdoch has helpfully spoken out on that point as well. Hark, what kind of Conservative is this? A refreshing bit of candour there. Print it up in some flyers if you need to, Team Hoskins, a bit of inoculation, a medical term I'm sure the Dr. is familiar with.

Conservatives, be they provincial or federal just can't be permitted to separate themselves from this move:
Earlier this month, Mr. Flaherty called tax harmonization a “solid” policy that will create jobs and grow the Canadian economy in the long run. He even offered to cut the remaining holdout provinces a cheque to ease the transition if they agreed to harmonize the taxes.

Ottawa is already kicking in $4.3-billion to help Ontario adjust to the tax change, which will increase the cost of many items currently exempt from the provincial levy. British Columbia will receive $1.6-billion.
Come to think of it, get Deficit Jim's quote in those flyers too.

The federal Conservative MP making noises to distance himself from the Ontario HST (see above Globe link) is Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound MP Larry Miller. Miller gets that the federal Conservative participation in this move could be politically damaging for them. So this could be a trial balloon for the federal Conservatives. They've participated in the HST move as partners on the one hand yet may diss it on the other in the smaller hometown venues in moves they think might not be noticed. Or they might perhaps quietly coat tail on protest (e.g., B.C. developments).

The prospect of political gain on the issue is clearly on Conservatives' minds as seen through provincial Team Hudak's enthusiasm and Miller's op-ed. Wouldn't put it past the Harper Conservatives to work this issue even though they're neck deep in it.

Update: Just saw NBCDipper with another Conservative doing the disavowal thing. See above:)

Update (3:05 p.m.): From CP:
A third Conservative MP is trying to wash his hands of a controversial tax harmonization plan that the federal government has touted as key to economic growth.

In a letter to a local newspaper, British Columbia MP James Lunney says moving to a single sales tax was the province's decision.

Lunney, who represents the riding of Nanaimo-Alberni, goes on to say that all concerns should be relayed to the local provincial representative Ron Cantelon.

His comments echo those of B.C. MP Dick Harris and Ontario MP Larry Miller, fellow Conservative caucus members who have disavowed Ottawa's role in convincing Ontario and B.C. to move to a single sales tax.
So, perhaps it is the plan, to point at the provincial Liberals and disavow the federal Harper/Flaherty role in this. That's not going to work...