Friday, November 27, 2009

Fate of the HST could rest with the Federal Liberals

Gordon Campbell's wishes to see the HST implemented in British Columbia could stand or fall on the whims of Michael Ignatieff and the Federal Liberal party and with it much of his financial planning of the last six months .

The Federal Conservative government is about to turn the heat up on the opposition in Ottawa next week, that's when the Harper government introduces its framework legislation to introduce the controversial tax in both Ontario and British Columbia.

While it will not be a vote of confidence on which the government itself can fall, (at least according to the Conservatives and their interpretation of the Parliamentary regulations), it will provide a dilemma for Ignatieff and his fellow Liberals in the nations capital.

While the HST is unpopular with many residents of both BC and Ontario, it has been the chosen financial instrument of Liberal governments in those two provinces, governments that may not appreciate their Federal relations interfering with their economic planning.

For Ignatieff the vote will also finally leave him with a decision to make, he's been rather cute with his declarations of the HST standing for the Harper Sales Tax, while at the same time explaining that if it were in place should he become Prime Minister he would not repeal it. The forced vote will clearly mean he has to outline his stand and be clear about it, then either support that position or come across as waffling on what are supposed to be his key issues.

While he has been scoring political points of late, what with his changing thoughts on the tax and his quick quips on the topic, but his position seems to sound like a familiar Liberal way of thinking it seems. Almost a copy of the old GST debate of decades ago, the one where the Liberals were up in arms over its introduction, but made a tidy little profit from it once in government.

In fact it wasn't all that long ago that Federal Liberals were bouncing around the idea that the HST was a much desired financial lever to create jobs, a talking point that doesn't seem to be discussed as much anymore while in opposition.

The Conservatives perhaps having learned from those history books after all, are going to put the Liberal leader on the spot, with their declaration that “If the framework legislation is rejected before Christmas, we will not revisit the issue. Not next year. Not after the next election.”

In short, they're telling the provinces of Ontario and BC that if they want this tax as they have indicated they do, then the time is here to put some political pressure on the Federal party.

If Ignatieff takes the bait and fights against the tax, he may win a few salutations from the folks that would be paying the new HST, but one wonders if that in the end would translate into votes.
More importantly for a party with some financial shortages to worry about in this pre election time run up, is the realization that if he undercuts his provincial premiers, then just how hard would those provincial political machines would work for him once the eventual election to come arrives.

Both Gordon Campbell and Dalton McGuinty no doubt will be burning up the phone lines to Ignatieff's office over the next week, they've spent far too much time and suffered much fallout from their plans so far, to have it all blow up because the Federal leader wasn't on message are the thing that grand political feuds are made of.
It's politics at its hardball best in Ottawa and Stephen Harper has just delivered the fastball high and under the chin of the Liberal leader.

Globe and Mail-- Tories will challenge Ignatieff with HST ultimatum
CTV News -- Federal Tories put Liberals on hot seat over HST
National Post-- Can HST flip-flop boost the Liberals?
Toronto Sun-- NDP to Iggy: Force an election over HST

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