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HST, climate change top all-candidates meeting

The Harmonized Sales Tax and climate change got a lot of coverage at an all-candidates meeting in Burquitlam last night, the last before the federal byelection on Monday.

None of the candidates are in favour of the HST (which could become a big issue in the next federal election).

Fin Donnelly, running for the New Democratic Party, called it the "Harper-Campbell sales tax" and said Harper's agenda is to implement such a tax across the country.

"Many people are extremely angry. These negotiation happened behind closed doors with the federal government," Donnelly said.

"It's another good question for Dilworth."

Diana Dilworth, the Conservative candidate who has been missing for much of the campaign, was absent.

Liberal candidate Ken Beck Lee also criticized the surprise nature of the HST announcement and said he doesn't support the tax in British Columbia or Canada-wide: "I don't think you can have one system for all the provinces. I think it will be a real burden for small businesses."

Rebecca Helps, running for the Green Party, said that she takes issue with the HST procedure but argued it's not a bad concept in and of itself.

"I don't believe we could stop it," she added, suggesting more goods and services could be excluded from the tax.

On climate change, all the candidates agreed that Canada needs to take a stronger lead in Copenhagen and commit to firm greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Helps made several jabs at the NDP's role in Parliament throughout the debate, accusing the party of "propping up the Conservative minority government."

"We were able to successfully get one billion dollars for increased EI benefits," replied Donnelly. "And that's something that, in these hard times, is a real achievement."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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