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BC NDP differs with federal party on HST repayment

British Columbia NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston disagrees with his federal counterparts on whether the province should have to return the $1.6 billion Ottawa paid B.C. to adopt the HST.

During May's federal election campaign, late NDP leader Jack Layton said the transition payment should be forgiven. Ralston at the time said it was unlikely the federal government would want to "punish" B.C. for rejecting the HST, which provincial voters did in a summer referendum, the Globe and Mail reported.

However, Ralston said this week there will be no escaping the repayment. Asked during a Sept. 11 press conference about the federal NDP's stance, he said, "That's their position. I don't agree with that. That may be a negotiating position, [but] I think it's unrealistic."

Ralston made the comments while responding to finance minister Kevin Falcon's first quarter report, which adjusted budget figures to include the $1.6 billion in the current fiscal year.

"It was always clear that when it was defeated you have to pay back the $1.6 billion that the federal government advanced, some people call it a bribe," Ralston said. "This document confirms that. I don't think there's any surprise there . . . I think its a manageable impact on the finances of the province and I think the finance minister agrees with me on that point."

Falcon said yesterday that compared to the costs of reverting from the HST to a PST/GST system, the international financial situation is a greater threat to the province's finances.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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