The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) enabling legislation passed in the House of Commons with only the New Democrats voting against it. In the longer term this will be good news for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and bad news for NDP leader, Jack Layton.
The good news for Michael Ignatieff was that he finally showed some spine and whipped his caucus into a unanimous vote for the legislation, ensuring that the Grits show a consistent approach towards the unpopular tax—while in power, they encouraged provinces to harmonize their sales taxes with the GST—and Grits want to protect themselves for when/if they return to power.
The GST is too valuable a tax regime for the Liberals to trash it for a bit of short-term political gain. They’ll need it to fill government coffers if they return to power, and the more sensible Grits know that only too well. And anyway, the Grits already made a significant flip-flop over the GST and don’t want to repeat that mistake over the HST.
The NDP will never gain power as a federal party, of course, so they don’t have to worry about a flip-flop over the GST or HST at that time. It is bad news for them nevertheless for, in the long term, they’ll regret finding themselves on the wrong side of good tax policy for some immediate gain among the many voters who apparently despise the GST and everything related to it.
And, of course, the Dippers already flipped and flopped over the GST/HST. Remember when Stephen Harper’s government lowered the GST from seven per cent to six then five per cent? Remember how the Dippers howled that it was bad economics, bad tax policy?
Apparently, back then the NDP were in favour of the GST concept—so much so that they wanted the unconscionably-high rate of seven per cent maintained. But now they are against extending the concept to the provinces. Go figure.
It is quite amazing how Jack Layton is able to morph his party to take political advantage of any new angle that presents itself. Dippers will, without embarrassment, advocate for an issue that in some form they previously opposed, so long as they see some political advantage in doing so.
At some level, Canadians intuitively understand that Layton and the NDP can not be trusted to stand on principle unless it has to do with the Labour movement. That’s why 80+ per cent of Canadians have rejected that party in every federal election in which they have participated. Time and time again the Dippers ask Canadians to allow them to run the country and time and time again Canadians sensible reject them.
One can always tell which way the political winds are blowing at any point in time. Jack Layton is the weather vane of Canadian politics: he just swings with the wind.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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