Liberal MPPs worry rebate cheques of up to $1,000, which Premier Dalton McGuinty assures them will cushion the blow of the new 13 per cent harmonized sales tax, are already being seen as “bribes” by skeptical voters.

Sources told the Toronto Star the proposed payouts sparked controversy behind closed doors at this week’s Liberal caucus meeting on the melded tax taking effect next July 1.

MPPs have been surprised this summer by the antipathy toward the rebate scheme, which reminds voters of the $200 “taxpayer dividend cheques” mailed by former Progressive Conservative finance minister Ernie Eves in 2000.

“As soon as we say you’re going to get a cheque, the reaction we’re all getting is people are pissed,” said one Liberal MPP. “They say Ernie Eves tried it and it inflames them even more.”
Another Liberal agreed.

“Voters are not stupid. People will figure out that we’re bribing them with their own money.”

Starting next June, the government will send up to $1,000 to families with a combined income of less than $160,000 to lessen the impact of the blended levy in its first year. (Single people earning up to $80,000 will receive $300.)

Concern over the rebates was among a litany of complaints from MPPs during an anxious, almost three-hour session behind closed doors at a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday to help them learn to sell the HST.