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Globe editorial

Campbell should fight on for the HST Add to ...

Gordon Campbell can still make up for lost time in mounting a vigorous defence of the harmonized sales tax, now that it is likely that a committee of British Columbia's legislature will be legally obliged to consider an initiative petition to cancel the HST agreement between the federal government and the province.

Hitherto, Mr. Campbell has left a disproportionate share of the debate on this issue to the Minister of Finance, Colin Hansen, rather than strongly invoking his own authority as Premier and as Leader of the provincial Liberal Party.

The HST is a version of the GST, which for almost two decades has proved its usefulness to the Canadian economy as well as its fairness to taxpayers, being a value-added tax that does not unduly burden either the earlier or the later stages of production, with a high degree of neutrality.

If Elections BC confirms that the petition has met the threshold set by the Recall and Initiative Act, a legislative committee will then have to choose between a referendum and a vote in the Legislative Assembly on the HST Extinguishment bill of William Vander Zalm, a former premier.

The Campbell government should not flinch, either by entering into an exercise in plebiscitarian democracy or by permitting a free vote in the legislature. In good faith, the Liberal government saw fit to accept a federal proposal for the HST - which unluckily was offered soon after the 2009 provincial election. This is an important part of the government's program; Liberals MLAs should vote against the Vander Zalm bill, although some of them may be in danger from recall votes.

Mr. Campbell and his colleagues must seek and find opportunities to present their convincing case for the HST to the public. Though the next provincial election is three years away, merely standing firm will not suffice for the restoration of trust.

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