Harmonization of the federal GST with provincial sales taxes remains the most important thing provinces can do to improve their competitiveness, says Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
"It's good longterm economic policy for the people of Canada," Flaherty said in Brampton, Ont., on Friday at the launch of the city's new rapid transit bus service called Zum.
"The decision to harmonize is always up to the individual province whether they choose to do it or not," Flaherty said.
Flaherty is providing $4.3 billion to Ontario and $1.6 billion to B.C. to make the change.Here was the reporting this week on the PMO's effort in the summer to begin the political positioning on their HST support:
In March, he praised Ontario, saying the move would save business about $500 million in administrative costs, and noted that, in a few years, "hopefully we will have a harmonized system across Canada."There you have the bizarro Conservative mode of government in action, the PMO asking the Finance Minister to stop talking publicly about a significant measure in the federal budget which they presented as such. Another naked example of playing politics with a policy that they believe in and have pushed yet believe they can gain politically from by throwing responsibility elsewhere. Profiles in courage from the federal gang. Yet Flaherty keeps stepping on the plan.
But federal Conservative sources have told the Star that earlier in the summer, officials in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office ordered Flaherty to tone it down.
"They asked Jim to stop talking about (the tax) so much because it's not helpful," said one insider.
Playing both sides of the HST issue fits in with the larger message about the Conservatives. They can't be straight on anything, including something in their own federal budget. This is a theme which is going to be pursued:
Ignatieff will, however, attack the way Harper does politics – and the ads are a big part of it.Trust, in a nutshell, is what is lacking.
"What he says in private is not what he says in public," says Ignatieff, a reference to a video that emerged over the past couple of weeks, showing Harper delivering a speech to staunch Conservative supporters – a speech in which he mocked social-justice advocates as "left-wing fringe groups" and talked about a need for a majority to deliver "a lesson" to the opposition parties and their supporters.