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A Liberal fight with credibility

The province appears increasingly manic over the HST as the looming June 24 referendum date approaches.

The province appears increasingly manic over the HST as the looming June 24 referendum date approaches.

The Liberals spent $5 million one week on a dinky TV ad campaign telling people to "get informed about the HST" (really? we couldn't do better than stickmen?), and the next week, the Premier tells us the tax will be overhauled.

"How?" ask the uninformed, dutifully following the TV ad directive.

"Stay tuned," is Premier Clark's answer.

Clark wouldn't comment when asked if she plans to offer British Columbians cash rebates similar to the $1,000 that Ontario residents received when that province introduced the HST.

"We're still working on the plan," she told reporters after her speech to Liberal delegates on Monday.

So when they said "get informed," they meant after the tax structure changes were revealed by the end of the month. (And how many useless TV ad spots will have been paid for by then?)

At least it explains why the ad doesn't provide viewers with any actual information - because the Liberals themselves don't know what the tax will look like.

This cryptic approach to the HST is not surprising considering it was Gordon Campbell's undoing.

The pressure is on. Clark has signalled she wants to win a mandate of her own by heading to the polls much sooner than the provincially mandated 2013 deadline - possibly right after the HST referendum is tallied in August.

So as she wins her own riding seat only by a narrow margin, and a provincial election looms, the handling of the HST is crucial, to say the least.

Perhaps the strategy is that remaining elusive would keep support alive for the party and for Clark on both sides of the HST divide.

After all, people who want the tax scrapped should love Clark's line: "After the report of the independent panel that studied the HST, I am more concerned than ever that the HST adds to the financial squeeze families are facing."

And the tax's supporters may feel hope rise at the comment: "I think British Columbians need to see the government is serious about fixing the HST."

But are all these political machinations actually backfiring?

Local anti-HST advocate Eric Allen continues his mantra that no matter what comes out, he will "fight it tooth and nail."

And the pro-HST side also appears less than secure. This week reported that Tourism Vancouver is helping to bankroll efforts to keep the HST alive by joining the Smart Tax Alliance - the official "no" side to returning to the provincial sales tax model.

Eventually Clark will have to settle on one tax recourse and sell it the people. (Claims of neutrality seem highly questionable when clearly non-neutral words like "bold" are used to describe the party's approach to the HST overhaul.)

And with all the flip flopping and secretiveness going on... well, it's no wonder she has resorted to begging the public to "stay tuned."

The Liberals have miles to go before their credibility is regained. They should start with bringing stability to the party and to the people of B.C. - let the public know what the tax structure looks like, let them vote, and move on.

- Prince George Citizen