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Clark rules out free vote on killing HST

Christy Clark has dropped her contentious plan for a new free vote of MLAs on whether to quickly kill the harmonized sales tax.

The radio talk show host is falling into line with the other Liberal leadership contenders in concluding the HST must go to the binding referendum pledged by premier Gordon Campbell.

Clark now says the idea of a free vote in the legislature – which rankled sitting Liberals who already voted on the HST last June – was just "an option" she had raised for discussion in the campaign.

"Part of leading is being able to take advice and then act on it," she said.

Clark spelled our her position in a video posted Wednesday, in which she calls for an accelerated HST referendum on June 24, three months earlier than currently planned.

"The tax does need to go to a referendum," she said. "And it needs to go sooner rather than later."

Clark said Elections BC must ensure equal funding to both sides of the referendum question, as happened with the 2009 vote on electoral reform.

And she said voting in the referendum should happen at the same polling places and similar hours to the last provincial election, adding anything less may "send the wrong signal."

As with other Liberals, Clark said she will vote for keeping the 12 per cent value-added tax that replaced the seven per cent PST and five per cent GST.

"Will it pass at referendum? I hope it does. But that will be up to the people to decide."

She'd previously said the referendum was an unnecessary waste of money when politicians could dispense with the issue in the legislature.

Rival George Abbott quickly denounced Clark's move as a "flip-flop" that proves she has "no credible plan" to lead the province.

"The public wants certainty and clarity, not more double-speak and misdirection," he said.

Abbott also criticized Clark's "misguided" plan to provide funding to the Fight HST forces.

"She now thinks it’s a good idea for taxpayers to cut Bill Vander Zalm a blank cheque for his efforts and pay groups who are actively misusing recall legislation to unseat BC Liberal MLAs,” he said.

Abbott added he called for an earlier June 24 vote on the first day of the campaign.

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