The B.C. government is stacking the deck in favour of the harmonized sales tax in its financing of a province-wide debate and referendum, NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston says.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has promised that $500,000 will be shared evenly between opponents and proponents of the HST, as Elections BC mails out ballots for a vote to be held in June and July.
Another $500,000 is budgeted to advertise and stage town hall meetings around the province, and $700,000 has been provided for a brochure to go to every household with arguments for and against the tax represented.
Ralston said the brochure and town hall forums are "under the thumb of the government," and Falcon is also planning a government advertising campaign with an unspecified budget to promote the HST.
"Clearly, nothing has changed from before," Ralston said Thursday. "The Liberal government is trying to persuade people with their own tax dollars that a $2 billion tax shift to big business, to take money out of their pockets, is good for them."
Ralston said he expects the new NDP leader, to be chosen Sunday, will embark on his own campaign against the HST. And leadership candidates were quick to denounce the plan.
Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth said the the "talking taxes" forums announced by Falcon are the sort of public consultation that should have been done before the tax was introduced last year.
Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix said the funding should be shared evenly between the yes and no sides, along with "a clear and binding limitation" on third party spending by business groups who support the HST.