VANCOUVER - The man behind a petition to kill the harmonized sales tax in B.C. is calling for the resignations of Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen after the release of new documents about the tax.
Former Premier Bill Vander Zalm says the documents, released under a freedom of information request, show the government was talking to Ottawa about the HST months before the provincial election in 2009, despite denials from the provincial Liberals.
“This document shows the premier and finance minister not only did not tell the truth during the election, but they repeated that deception over and over again afterward," Vander Zalm said in a news release. "Now they've been caught red-handed, and they must resign.”
However, Hansen said government bureaucrats were just doing their jobs examining the HST and were not taking any political direction from the Liberals.
"They were doing what they normally do, and that's to collect information about tax policy issues," he said. "And when Ontario made their decision to go the HST, they did their due diligence and gathered information."
Hansen confirmed Wednesday he briefly examined an HST briefing document in March 2009, but did not seriously consider adopting the tax until after the provincial election that May.
Vander Zalm also said a report included in the documents warned that the HST would have a negative impact on the B.C. economy but the Liberals told the public the HST was the best thing they could do for the economy.
"It turns out they were not telling the truth about that either, since they were fully aware of a C.D. Howe Institute study showing the exact opposite,” he said.
Opposition New Democrat leader Carole James said she can't believe the government went ahead with the HST when it had information the tax could hurt the economy for years.
"When you're in a difficult economic time, when you're in a recession, when we haven't seen the tentative signs of recovery, a tax that's going to going to discourage consumer confidence, going to slow down our economy, slow down our growth — why would you bring in that tax?" she said.