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'Everything is on the table' in HST repayment talks, says Falcon

British Columbia finance minister Kevin Falcon didn't rule out the possibility that the province might pay back less than the $1.6 billion it received from the federal government for adopting the harmonized sales tax.

"Let's just say everything would be on the table," he said when asked if the province might return less than the full amount to Ottawa. "But again I just want to underscore we've always been clear that we will meet our obligation that we have with the federal government. So you can parse that as you wish."

Asked if the obligation might change, he said, "We're not going to try and wiggle out of our obligation, but we think that how it gets repaid is a matter of discussion and that's something we're currently having discussions over."

Voters rejected the HST in a referendum, results of which were announced in August, spurring a return to the previous PST/GST system and necessitating the repayment of $1.6 billion the province had received from the federal government for adopting the HST in 2010.

Falcon said he has promised not to debate the repayment publicly and wouldn't share the details of the discussion.

He made the comments following an update for reporters on his recent trip to Europe to meet with bankers and finance officials. The former transportation minister compared the European debt crisis to a slow motion train wreck and pitched B.C. as a safe harbour for investment.

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

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