bc-080907-dosanjh

Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal MP for Vancouver South, once spoke out against the tax, but now says it is important that federal Liberals support the levy. ((CBC))

British Columbia's Liberal MPs appear to be split on whether to support the HST during a coming vote in Parliament.

On Tuesday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party will back the Conservative government's legislation creating a federally managed harmonized sales tax in B.C. and Ontario.

But Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin said he'll try to convince his colleagues they're mistaken in supporting Ignatieff on the legislation.

The Victoria-area MP said it's important to reflect the wishes of his constituents, adding he's ready to take his political lumps for defying his leader and speaking out.

The 12 per cent HST will kill jobs, harm the economy and burden Canadians who are barely making ends meet, according to Martin.

Martin said he's in "negotiations with the leadership of my party to see if we can find an alternative way of dealing with this for those of us in British Columbia and Ontario who feel very strongly that we should not be supporting the HST in its current format."

Martin said options that could be available to those who oppose the bill are under negotiation, which includes abstaining, not showing up to vote or voting against it.

In February, Ignatieff allowed four of his MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador to break party ranks and have a one-time-only protest vote against the budget.

Martin said it was difficult to say how many Liberal MPs oppose the bill but that it's been a "divisive issue." He said he has the support of some of his colleagues to try to negotiate with the party leadership.

Important to support bill

The vote on the HST has put the party in the position of either supporting a measure unpopular with consumers or opposing the wishes of the B.C. and Ontario governments.

But Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal MP for Vancouver South, who once spoke out against the HST, said it is important that federal Liberals support the tax now.

"This is a wrong time to impose this tax. I still believe that," Dosanjh told CBC Radio on Wednesday morning.

"But ultimately, you then have to look at whether or not you're a federalist party that has in mind the frailties and fragilities of this federation where federal-provincial agreements are sacrosanct."

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has asked the federal MPs to respect the deal his government reached with Ottawa.

Liberals aren't the only ones divided by the controversial tax. In Ontario, two Progressive Conservative legislators have slept in the provincial legislature for the past two nights to protest the move to implement the HST.

Bill Murdock and Randy Hillier's sleepover-style protest derailed proceedings and cancelled question period in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday.

The two ended their protest Wednesday morning, but Murdock said he still can't believe Dosanjh's change of stance on the issue.

"Typical Liberals … they do what they're told. He's against it, but yet he won't vote against it? Come on, where's democracy?" Murdock said.

While the federal NDP opposes the HST bill, the Bloc Québécois has said it would support the proposed legislation, which is not being put to a confidence vote.