The B.C. government is using a stickman figure in a $5 million ad campaign to promote the controversial harmonized sales tax that forced former premier Gordon Campbell from office.

Stickman is featured in the "Decide for Yourself" online, TV and print ads launched Thursday, before next month's mail-in referendum on the HST.

"The character promotes discussion and prompts viewers to seek out information at to help inform voters of their forthcoming decision to keep the HST or go back to the two-tax system of the PST and GST," said a release from the Finance Ministry.

It said current research on the site indicates there's a great deal of misunderstanding about the HST.

The release said 61 per cent of respondents think basic groceries have gone up under the tax, but that's not true.

The campaign came up in question period in the legislature when NDP house leader John Horgan again asked whether the government would restore all tax exemptions under the old provincial sales tax if the HST is defeated in the upcoming referendum.

"You don't have to spend five million bucks to get his answer," Horgan said of Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

"Will you restore the exemptions that were in place before you screwed up the tax system in British Columbia?"

Falcon said he won't make any decisions on the tax until after the government completes consultations and the public votes in the referendum.

"We are engaged in the most massive, largest reachout to engage British Columbians ... to solicit input from British Columbians on how we can improve the HST," he said.

The government is also spending another $2 million on telephone town hall meetings and a series of 11 public forums on the tax.

The forums, which start May 24 in Dawson Creek, will be held mostly in universities and colleges and people can attend in person or watch them on the Internet.

The public campaign coincides with one kicked off Thursday by the Smart Tax Alliance, a coalition of business and industry groups which says the tax creates jobs and boosts the province's economy.

The group Fight HST says the government has underestimated the impact of the tax on consumers, who are paying more for everyday goods and services.