URGENT UPDATE - Finance Minister Colin Hansen was briefed on HST negotiations in March 2009 - months before BC election; government suppressed report saying if HST imposed BC would lose jobs and economic growth for up to 5 years!
As predicted here a short time ago, the BC government has disclosed that Hansen was briefed on negotiations between Finance Ministry bureaucrats and federal government officials about implementing the HST in BC months before the May 12, 2009 provincial election.
The obvious conclusion - Hansen and Premier Gordon Campbell deliberately and repeatedly misled both the public and restaurant and new home builder associations about the status of the HST before the election to avoid damaging political fallout that could have cost them victory.
CBC.ca is reporting that 140 pages of documents requested under the Freedom Of Information Act have been released, in response to FOI requests filed by several media outlets. Parts of the documents released have been "severed" or blacked out by government officials
The Vancouver Sun is reporting that the government also knew in advance of a C.D. Howe Institute study that warned imposing the HST in BC "will cause a short-term loss" in economic growth and employment.
“Part of the reason is that the negative effect of higher consumption taxes occurs faster than the positive effect of lower taxes on investment goods and exports. The study suggests that it may take five or more years before the impact on GDP is positive and even longer for real wages and job numbers to recover,” assistant deputy Finance Minister Glen Armstrong wrote in a March 12, 2009 briefing note to Hansen, according to Rob Shaw of the Victoria Times Colonist.
But Hansen is denying he was involved in HST negotiations.
“None of this stuff was at the request of anybody at the political level. ... I had never asked for anything to do with HST, nor to the best of my knowledge had any finance minister in our government or any other cabinet minister in our government including the premier, ever asked for any information to be prepared on HST,” Hansen told Shaw.
EARLIER REPORT BELOW:
What "devastating" government documents about the Harmonized Sales Tax are being selectively released to major media in a carefully orchestrated damage control exercise?
UPDATE - I have now clarified that most Victoria press gallery media filed a joint FOI request which the government responded to today - rumours that it was "selectively released" were incorrect - the material was given to all media who filed the FOI.
Finance Minister Colin Hansen is reportedly making individual calls to media outlets this afternoon, with the information embargoed until 4 p.m., several reliable sources tell me.
Rumours suggest the documents show the government - contrary to all past public statements - was very much involved in detailed discussions with the federal Conservative government prior to the May 12, 2009 provincial election.
That would contradict everything said previously after the July 23, 2009 announcement of the HST - that the government only began talks with Ottawa three days after the election - and would blow another gaping hole in the credibility of Hansen, Campbell and the BC Liberal government that is already in dire straits due to public opposition to the HST.
Could the documents also include previously undisclosed studies on the impact of the HST?
Stay tuned to your major media - and this blog - for details when they become available.