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Post-election HST query would have been routine: Hansen

British Columbia finance minister Colin Hansen said documents showing that just three days after last May's election the province initiated discussions with Ottawa about introducing a Harmonized Sales Tax are consistent with his earlier statements.

“As I've said quite clearly, after the election was over, when I met with finance ministry staff and we were going through a whole range of issues, one of the ones that came up was the HST and the implications of Ontario adopting the HST and British Columbia still having the old-style of PST,” Hansen told reporters.

The Canadian Press reported this morning that documents obtained through a federal access to information request show provincial bureaucrats asked their federal counterparts for HST information on May 15, just three days after the May 12 election. During the election campaign the B.C. Liberals said they were not contemplating introducing an HST.

“I haven't seen what it is that's been released federally,” said Hansen. “If there was a request that went out from officials in my ministry it would have been a routine measure to gather information, but certainly not something that was requested by me.”

During question period the NDP's Bruce Ralston pointed out that Hansen had previously said he first discussed interest in moving to the HST with federal finance minister Jim Flaherty at the end of May. “Can the minister explain media reports today that contradict what the minister told this House and suggest that federal and provincial officials were in discussion about the HST within days after the election on May 12?”

There's no contradiction, said Hansen. Since the mid-1990s federal governments have been urging provinces to adopt the HST, but the first indication that B.C. was interested wasn't given until the end of May, he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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