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HST causes contortions for Conservative candidates in BC

The Harmonized Sales Tax that caused a citizen's revolt and drove thrice-elected Premier Gordon Campbell to step down emanated from Stephen Harper's Conservative government. But yesterday a senior Conservative strategist adamantly defended HST, declaring it "right for British Columbians" -- just days after a pair of Conservative candidates running in B.C. this danced around defending the tax.

On a CKNW radio show yesterday Conservative Colin Metcalfe said the referendum Campbell approved to allow British Columbians to vote thumbs up or down on the HST was an unnecessary "boondoggle."

But one of his own party's candidates isn't so sure. On Friday, Ronald Leung, the Conservative running in Burnaby-Douglas said, "I haven't really made up my mind" about whether he endorses the HST, which critics call a $2 billion transfer of tax burden from large corporations to small businesses and consumers.

"I think HST on one hand is good for the business, but for the average consumer, they have to spend more. Every time they spend they have to think 'Oh, we have to pay the HST so it's not good,' but after just about one year, some people may think it's not having a huge effect on my expense. Maybe they will think that way. So I really don't know. I haven't made up my mind," Leung told CPAC.

Three days before, on Mar. 29, Donna Cadman, the Conservative MP running again in Surrey North, struggled to explain why she broke a promise to vote against the HST in Parliament. "I wanted to show my support for my constituents, but I could not see standing up and voting outwardly no to my party," she was quoted in the Globe and Mail.

"The Conservatives are having a tough time on the HST because they know they can't justify Harper's decision to impose this unfair tax on British Columbians," said Kennedy Stewart, the NDP candidate running against Leung.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, newly elected as leader to replace Campbell, has said she will hold a referendum to let B.C. citizens vote up or down on the HST.

Opposition to the HST was a key issue helping NDP candidate Finn Donnelly capture the New Westminster-Coquitlam riding in a 2009 byelection.

Burnaby-Douglas, Surrey North and New Westminster-Coquitlam are suburban ridings in the Greater Vancouver region of B.C.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee

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