British Columbia

B.C.'s HST push moves into high gear

Finance Minister Colin Hansen will move the fight over the harmonized sales tax to the floor of the legislature this week.

The fight over the harmonized sales tax will finally move to the floor of the B.C. legislature this week.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen will introduce legislation to scrap the provincial sales tax and introduce the HST, a blend of the federal goods and services tax and the provincial sales tax.

And he has millions of reasons to move ahead now. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has agreed to pay B.C. $250 million within seven days of the legislation being introduced.

Hansen needs that money this week: The fiscal year ends on Wednesday, and without that huge infusion of cash, the provincial deficit will climb even higher than the record $2.8 billion Hansen reported in his recent budget.

The payment would be the first installment of the $1.6 billion in "transition payments" over three years promised by the federal government. That commitment sweetened the pot and persuaded B.C. to go ahead with the controversial tax.

B.C. government officials say they are confident the money from Ottawa will soon be flowing.

Hansen has always treated passage of the HST as a done deal.

"It's the single biggest thing we can do to drive the economy forward and create jobs in the future," the finance minister has said, though there has been plenty of opposition to the plan because items that were formerly exempt from sales tax will now face a levy.