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NDP to vote against HST 'bribe' funds: Layton

“Resistance to the harmonized sales tax is growing… Not only here in British Columbia, but also in Nova Scotia and, slowly, in Ontario,” NDP leader Jack Layton told The Tyee on Friday.

“So far, Stephen Harper has largely avoided being tagged with this regressive tax increase,” Layton said. “Harper tries to say it’s just a provincial matter. That’s simply not true. And that will become clear when there’s actually a vote in the House of Commons on the harmonized tax.”

Layton, who was in New Westminster and Coquitlam campaigning with by-election candidate Fin Donnelly, vowed the NDP will vote against the “$1.8 billion in bribe money that Harper put on the table” to bring British Columbia into the nationwide harmonization program.

“We've been raising it in question period... and we're going to keep it up, because the HST is a regressive tax,” Layton said.

NDP Premier Darrell Dexter, who last June became the first New Democrat ever to lead Nova Scotia, was elected in part because he campaigned against the HST, according to Layton. Premier Dexter has already waived HST on home heating fuel, and is working on removing it from other targeted essentials.

“In B.C., there was an explicit denial by the premier in the [May] election. And then sure enough it happened. That created a visceral and immediate sense of betrayal,” Layton said. “And, let’s face it, people in British Columbia react faster and with more enthusiasm than we typically find in Ontario.”

Layton described his home province as a “sleeping giant” where public opinion is slower to react.

“The Ontario population is taking a little while to wake up to the fact that they’re about to be whacked with some pretty sharp tax increases, and that Stephen Harper is bribing the Ontario government with their tax dollars to make it happen,” he said.

“I can tell you that once our constituents come to understand it, we get far more response on this than we get on any other issue,” Layton said. “I think you’re going to find that as the implementation dates of the tax get closer, the pressure is going to rise.

(The Conservative and Liberal parties were invited to provide leadership comment in conjunction with the Nov. 9 by-elections. Neither national campaign returned The Tyee’s phone calls or e-mails.)

Layton said he enjoys campaigning with Donnelly.

“Fin has such a great name for a swimmer,” he joked. “And he swam such long distances… I tended to be more of a sprinter. In that sense we make a good combination.”

And Layton credited Donnelly for yesterday’s announcement that Harper has called for a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run.

“Here’s a guy who, even before being elected an MP, has already achieved what most opposition MPs have great difficulty doing, namely forcing the government to act,” Layton said. “The inquiry is a response to an issue Fin has been working on for 15 years, since that first swim.”

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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