MPs duck out on HST vote

OTTAWA — The HST is closer to becoming law in British Columbia and Ontario after the House of Commons voted in favour of the controversial new collection regime Thursday.

OTTAWA — The HST is closer to becoming law in British Columbia and Ontario after the House of Commons voted in favour of the controversial new collection regime Thursday.

The Conservative government’s motion was backed by the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, setting the stage for the formal amendment of the Excise Tax Act.

The government is moving to fast-track the legislation, so it could be voted into law as early as next week.

Only New Democrats voted against the motion, which passed 192-32.

But the fact that only 224 MPs were present to cast a vote in the 308-seat House spoke volumes about how gun-shy even supportive parties’ members are of the harmonized sales tax.

Thirty-five Conservatives, including 10 members of cabinet and the travelling prime minister, missed the vote. The Liberals were short 28 MPs, although Leader Michael Ignatieff made a virtue of the fact no Liberal actually voted against tax harmonization despite several threats this week.

“The Liberals are certainly speaking with one voice on the HST,” said Ignatieff.

“We made a tough decision because we believe that provinces, both British Columbia and Ontario, want this legislation. They believe that it will create jobs and employment in those two provinces.”

The change, negotiated between the Harper government and provincial Liberal governments in B.C. and Ontario, will permit the provinces to start collecting a combined GST and PST next July 1.