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Strike Three and You're Out! Clark, Harper and the HST

By Peter Ewart

Thursday, September 01, 2011 03:44 AM

By Peter Ewart

Premier Christy Clark is refusing to discuss her negotiations with the Harper government over the $1.6 billion the province supposedly owes for the HST transition fund "payback". "I'm not going to negotiate in the media about how we're going to get through this," she told reporters after the results of the HST referendum were announced.
Her response raises the question: After bungling the imposition of the HST and then bungling the HST referendum, is the Liberal government now going to screw up the negotiations with the Feds over the $1.6 billion? If so that would be three strikes in a row, and we all know what that means.
Clark has a strange quirk about her when discussing sensitive issues. On the one hand, when it is time to keep her mouth shut, she speaks out. For example, after she met with Prime Minister Harper earlier this year, she waxed eloquently to the media about some cockeyed scheme of hers for Senate reform which involved Ontario and Quebec somehow being persuaded to not filling up their vacant seats, while letting BC increase its own seats. Dream on, political watchers said, and shook their heads in disbelief.
And then she undercut her own Transportation Minister, Blair Lekstrom, who was in delicate negotiations with Lower Mainland mayors over a gas tax. Lekstrom quickly set her straight on that one, and she was forced to retract her ill-timed comments. And there are a number of other examples of her fumbles and gaffes.
On the other hand though, when it is time to speak out forcefully and clearly, Clark refuses to say anything, mouth and face frozen in her perpetual smile. A recent example has been her refusal to clarify whether there will be a Fall election. At a time when even her own supporters have wanted some political and economic stability in the province, she persisted in leaving the election question in limbo until just yesterday when she finally confirmed a May 2013 date. This was only done after months of speculation, as well as sharp criticism from various media sources.
Which brings us to the negotiations with the Harper government over the HST transition funds. Everyone knows Harper likes to play hardball. But he and his government have a nasty streak when they do so. Former PM Pierre Trudeau had one also, especially when dealing with the provinces. However, unlike Trudeau (who was too arrogant to care), Harper doesn't like this nasty streak to be displayed out in the open for all to see. Just ask members of his caucus or some federal ministry officials and scientists about how the "great controller" Harper treats them for airing unvetted views in the media, even those that are relatively inconsequential.
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams understood this about Harper and used it to his advantage in some high profile disputes with the federal government. So did Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in the Potash Corporation takeover controversy.
But not Clark. For her, "mum's the word" on the HST negotiations with the Feds. Now it is well known that the federal government, being the chief architect and webmaster of the HST, has the upper hand in this affair. However, a good provincial negotiator could manoeuvre the debate into the public arena, weakening Harper's hand and force him to be more conciliatory.
Will that happen? Not likely given the track record of this provincial government, and that it itself has been greatly weakened by bungling the HST file. So the question arises: Who will stand up to the Harperite steamroller in the future, not just on the HST, but also for other British Columbian interests? 
It remains to be seen, but all politicians in BC, of whatever stripe, should take note.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at:

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To compare negotiations over the termination of an agreement which has termination clauses in it to the reneging on a deal with Newfoundland the takeover of a coproration near and dear to a province is ludicrous.

How close were you to the two examples you cite, Peter? Do you really think that there were no discussions before the premiers took the public stance they did?

To start negotiations in public is hardly the way to go. If push should come to shove and there is not much one can lose, then going public might be an appropriate tactic.

We have to remember that both Wall and Williams were extremely popular premiers. At the moment, Clark does not have that advantage. In addition, the Fed Conservatives are not exactly in need of votes for a few years unlike the position the two premiers found themselves in with the instances you cited.

There is a time and a place for everything.
I find it very interesting that the BC Government borrowed $1.5 Billion in the spring of last year @ 2.85% over 5 years. Just about the same time as they also received money from the Federal government. This information was provided to me by the Senior Manager of Capital Markets, Debt Management Branch.

If we have to pay back the $1.6 Billion, why doesn't the BC government already have a surplus from the HST to pay it back with? They are receiving more tax revenue than they did before the HST. Aren't they?

Or, why can't they just go back to their bankers and borrow the money? The same as they did in the spring of 2010.

Quoted from the Globe & Mail yesterday.(article by Neil Reynolds) An economic paper entitled "The Consumption Tax: A Critique", the late economist Murray Rothbard wrote; "With income taxes, you pay to work, With consumption taxes, you pay to live."
How exactly was the HST referendum "bungled" - Mr. Ewart? Aren't you very very happy with the outcome? Puzzling statement, to be sure!

Clark's HST negotiations are NOT required to be conducted in public. Harper would refuse to participate in the negotiations if they were.

Ask yourself *what would Dix do?* in the same situation!

Answer: The same!

"However, a good provincial negotiator could manoeuvre the debate into the public arena, weakening Harper's hand and force him to be more conciliatory."

Forcing Harper, the Teflon Man with the just received super majority mandate to do anything he does not want or need to do?


Now there is an example of daydreaming in technicolour!
Seems to me that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the repaying of the $1.6 Billion to the Feds.

Firstly we have to establish that it will in fact have to be paid back, then we will have to determine how it will be paid back. Ie; reduction in balance of payments to provinces, Federal Government with holding the money collected at the border for lumber exports under the FTA. (approx $250 Million per year) etc; etc; etc;.

The fact of the matter is we should be looking at a bigger and more serious problem for the Goverment. Under the original referendum legislation put forward by Vanderzalm, the intent was to have the Government reimburse BC Taxpayers for all taxes paid, once the tax was recinded. The government got around this issue, by bringing in their own referendum legislation.

The fact of the matter is we could now be paying a tax for the next 18 months that was defeated by a referendum. So we need to know if we as taxpayers have any recourse in getting our money back.

In other words, considering the fact that the referendum recinded the tax, are we to beleive that it was open ended, and that the Government could continue to collect it for 18, 22, 26, 36, months, or whatever time they choose. Do the winners of the referendum have no say in this matter.

Seems to me that the ***losers** on this issue, ie; the Government, business, and corporations, will continue to reap the benefits for the next 18 months. What do the taxpayers get out of this.

Lets not lose our focus by concentrating on the piddly assed $1.6 Billion going back to the feds, as I stated before, we received this money, we spent it, and we must have got some sort of benefit for it, so if we have to, we will pay it back. A **smart** Government would do all it could to make us the best deal possible.

This big issue is the fact that if this tax is not recinded for another 18 months then the Goverment is going to collect an additonal $1.6 billion in taxes, and business and corporations are going to get further tax benefits in the area of $3.5 billion, which we will also pay, so we will be stuck for a further $5 billion more or less. Thats where the big bucks are.

If we have to pay this tax for the next 18 months then the Government had better earmark the money to pay back the $1.6 Billion. This should not be a problem for them because as you are all aware this tax was to be revenue neutral to the Government. So the excess over revenue neutral can go to pay the debt.

Have a nice day.
I will buy on craigslist and support the underground economy.
Nice stripes Peter!!!
I`v come across transcripts of government bodies negotiating, here`s how they go I understand it...

WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH...what everrr

BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH...what everrrrr

WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH...what everrrr

BLAH BLAH BLAH...what everrrrr

If you understood that,you rae a teenager or you qualify to be in politics...
Prince George:-"How exactly was the HST referendum "bungled" - Mr. Ewart? Aren't you very very happy with the outcome? Puzzling statement, to be sure!"
It was 'bungled' by the BC Liberal government spending copious amounts of our tax dollars to convince us that the HST is good for us, and in spite of all that, still losing the Referendum.

They have demonstrated the same type of continuing ineptitude that used to be the hallmark of the NDP. And no doubt still is.

This government continues to treat us like we are a bunch of idiots and assume we don't understand anything.

Well, guess what? They have a lot to learn. We are not so dumb. We are not so gullible. We are not so easily threatened. We are not so easily intimidated. We are not so easily bullied. We are not so easily coerced.

The worst thing this government has done to us to treat us as if we couldn't possibly understand what is best for us. Shame on them all. They should all be fired.

We have spoken. They better listen. Waiting until 2013 will not be enough time for me to forget their coniving, coersive and outright misleading tactics in dealing with the HST. I have lost complete respect and confidence in their leadership. Makes me sick to my stomach. What a pathetic bunch we have running our province.

Have they every considered saying what they mean, mean what they say. Doing what they say. And listen to those who gave them their jobs.

People voted them in. Not corporations, not banks, not other countries. Time they realized who signs their paychecks.