Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon likes the HST but wants to see its rate dropped to 10 per cent from 12 per cent.
Falcon, who stopped in Kelowna Monday to talk to Liberal Party members, told reporters it would be “irresponsible” for the government to voluntarily axe the tax because he believes it is good for the province.
But he does want to see an immediate reduction of the 12 per cent rate to 11 per cent and a further one per cent reduction as soon as the economy allows for it.
Saying he is open to holding the referendum on the HST’s future earlier than September, the former health minister said he wants to make sure the public has more information about the tax before voting on it.
Information, he said, was something the government did not provide prior to introducing the controversial tax last year.
Like all the other Liberals running to replace Premier Gordon Campbell, Falcon now says the government did a woeful job of introducing the tax, something most in his party denied before the anti-HST group FightHST forced a referendum on the tax through the province’s initiative law.
But while Falcon said he would consider pushing the date of the HST referendum forward, unlike his main challenger former cabinet colleague-turned-radio talk show host Christy Clark, he does not think the next provincial election should be held any earlier than the scheduled May 14, 2013 date.
He said one of the reasons is that there are dozens of other MLAs who want a say in any decision to hold the election and they need to be heard.
“It’s can’t be seen as one person making the decision,” he said.
Falcon, considered a front runner in the race to succeed outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell, also “respectfully” disagreed with Shuswap MLA George Abbott, another leadership hopeful, who recently said he believes he, not Falcon, is running second behind Clark in the race.
Falcon said he has the numbers to prove Abbott is wrong and offered them to reporters who came to his campaign office, but only on condition they not report the numbers.
He said the reason for the secrecy is because he does not want the other candidates to know how successful he has been at signing up new party members.
As for the response to his candidacy, the Surrey MLA said he considers himself an underdog. And he likes that role.
Using a mixture of technology, such as the Internet and special mobile phone applications, as well as old-fashioned face-to-face meetings, what he’s hearing from the people he speaks to is that the government needs to keep its focus on the economy.
To that end, he promised to cut even more government red tape—the Liberals claim to have already cut 40 per cent— in a bid to move the B.C. economy along.
He also pointed to several transportation projects that were announced or completed under his watch as transportation minister, saying the completion of the William R. Bennett Bridge here was the best day of his political life.