- Plausible Deniability
question period today John
Horgan, NDP MLA for Juan de Fuca, asked Finance Minister
Colin Hansen if the reason he wasn't concerned about falling
government revenues during the election period because he
knew that he had a $1.6 billion commitment from the federal
government for implementing the HST. Hansen ignored the question
and attacked the NDP's record, but on previous occasions he
denied considering the HST until after the election.
denial was called into question by NDP finance critic Bruce
Ralston based on a March
30, 2009 Canwest News Service story with byline by David
Akin who attributed a statement to federal Finance Minister
Jim Flaherty as saying "other provinces" (note plural
form - two or more provinces) have approached the federal
government to talk about ways to harmonize the federal goods
and services tax with provincial sales tax. That was after
Ontario announced in its March 26 budget that it was implementing
the HST. Akin's story noted that a spokesperson for Manitoba's
Finance Minister, Greg Selinge, said Manitoba has no interest
in copying Ontario and has not approached the federal government
to talk about harmonization. The story said: "Saskatchewan
Premier Brad Wall campaigned last year on a platform that
included no harmonization but recently has hinted that he
was open to more discussions on the issue." Harmonization
is irrelevant in Alberta which has no sales tax. Akin wrote
that "P.E.I. Treasurer Wesley Sheridan could not be reached";
but HST observers know that Prince Edward Island passed when
the three other Atlantic provinces harmonized in 1996.
leaves B.C. as one of the most likely provinces referred to
by Flaherty, six weeks after B.C.'s budget was tabled and
six weeks before British Columbians went to the polls.
contrast to saying that the PEI treasurer could not be reached,
Akin's article said: "B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen
declined to comment on the issue
" A debate arose
in the legislature today over whether that meant Hansen had
no comment or whether he was simply unavailable to comment.
Akin's notebook and his willingness to talk on what is now
a five month old story may prove to be important evidence
in the ongoing saga of the credibility of Hansen and Campbell.
nothing further can be added to clarify Akin's March 30th
story, there is the much stronger evidence that Jim Flaherty
and his officials could provide on whether Hansen or his officials
were in conversation with the federal finance department as
early as March 2009. Freedom of Information requests would
be useless as both governments would consider intergovernmental
communications exempted. There is the possibility of a federal
election in the next few months and, as Vancouver Sun columnist
Yafee wrote today, BC's impending implementation of the
HST could become an issue in a federal election. The line
from the Conservatives has been that implementation of the
HST is done by provincial initiative, as they try to wash
their hands of the controversy.
says that he did not personally speak to Flaherty about the
HST, but that does not mean that someone in the Ministry of
Finance did not begin serious discussions regarding its implementation
prior to the election. This is where the concept of plausible
deniability comes in.
problem the Campbell government faces with the state of the
province's finances, and likely the HST, is that the public
doesn't accept its denials as plausible; an Ipsos-Reid
survey released by Global BC reported: "Seven-in-ten
(72%) residents say they believe that the Campbell Liberals
intentionally misled voters about the province's worsening
financial situation during the spring 2009 election campaign
need to focus on whether anyone who could credibly represent
the province had discussions with the federal government before
the election on the implementation of the HST after the election.
If so, was Hansen protected so he could maintain plausible
deniability? Somewhere in the bowels of Victoria and Ottawa
a small handful of people know the truth - a truth the public
deserves to know.