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May 18, 2010

Lies and Responsibility Denied

Finance Minister Colin Hansen's letter published in The Province on May 18th shows a government that is desperate to escape the image that it deceived the voters last year. Stay tuned for the possibility of Hansen denying responsibility for the letter which appeared over his name, as he has set a precedent for blaming staff for the position of his party and government. In his Province letter Hansen wrote:

"During elections, political parties receive dozens of surveys from organizations. These surveys are answered on behalf of candidates by individuals working out of the party headquarters. In response to two surveys asking about the HST, the answer was sent out, quite correctly, that the HST "is not something that is contemplated in the B.C. Liberal platform." Other than those surveys, the subject of the HST was never raised during the election by the media, by the NDP or in any of the debates."

Hansen preceded those comments with the claim that the BC Liberals did not promise during the election campaign that there would be no HST. The answer to the questionnaires they returned to the BC Restaurant Association and Food Services Association and to the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association certainly led those associations to believe that they had been promised that a BC Liberal government would not bring in the HST.

Election campaigns are one of the few times that politicians can be forced to give answers to questions on the minds of voters. Hansen is correct that political parties receive dozens of surveys and questionnaires. The major parties have their central office answer the surveys with the official position of the party; they do that both to be efficient and to reduce the risk of being caught in potentially embarrassing situations that could flow from inconsistent answers if 85 candidates responded individually. Organizations receiving responses frequently circulate the answers to their members to inform them of the differences between the parties on issues that matter to them.

In Ontario, the government held public consultations before it announced the HST; the HST is controversial in Ontario where Premier McGuinty admits that families will pay more because of the tax, but Ontario's Premier cannot be accused of deceit. Premier Campbell and his caucus don't seem to understand that voters consider it deceit when an election is fought and a major policy change is made days afterword, even though no suggestion of the policy reversal was given during the campaign. The questionnaires only make the credibility gap the BC Liberals are in even wider. Hansen's letter shows that he doesn't understand why voters are angry and feel deceived.

If Hansen is suggesting, as it appears he is, that responses to the surveys and questionnaires don't count, then be prepared for a 2013 election with the theme that you can't believe anything the BC Liberals tell you.