Premier Gordon Campbell heralded B.C.'s incoming harmonized sales tax to municipal politicians Friday as a critical remedy to ballooning health care and education spending, despite their signalled aversion to the new tax.

The premier told the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention that if health care costs only grew at the rate of inflation, the deficit would be eliminated quickly. Taking up a defensive stance, he instead warned that billions of new spending will be required and cash has to be shored up somehow.

"If we don't deal with this, health spending is going to squeeze out every other spending priority that we may have in government, and that's what the HST is all about," he told a packed auditorium in Vancouver.

The speech came only hours after municipal delegates passed a resolution asking the provincial government to "abandon" its plans to implement the tax. Campbell -- a former UBCM president himself -- dismissed the resolution, telling reporters later "it's always good to hear from the UBCM."

Some 185 delegates voted in favour and 154 voted against the resolution, which was put forward by Vancouver council. More than 1,000 delegates attended the conference.

"I've actually had far more positives coming to me from individual delegates than I've had any concerns about it," Campbell said. "It is unquestionably the most important thing we can do for our economy."

The premier cites the HST as a means to lowering costs on business, attracting new investment to the province and creating jobs.

Opposition critics retorted that Campbell's position was an example of his failure to consult with municipalities and take their concerns into consideration.

"I don't think he understands the mayors and he doesn't understand the UBCM and he doesn't understand the hostility to the HST in the rest of British Columbia," said Mike Farnworth, New Democrat house leader.

Repeatedly playing up the skyrocketing costs of health and education was an attempt to divert attention from the HST and his inability to produce other solutions, added Bruce Ralston, NDP finance critic.

Campbell admitted his government knew implementing the tax would be unpopular but told the crowd it's "something we have to do." He said the only way to ensure future generations enjoy the same quality of health care delivered today is to find new innovations and funding formulas.

The premier's tone was a departure from past addresses to the UCBM, as he lauded old promises that he'd fulfilled but offered no new spending for municipalities. He noted the province's record $2.8-billion deficit, which he said no one could have predicted.

"The fact is it's tough to control the things that you have no control over," he said, later adding he believed municipal leaders understand the government's precarious financial position.

In return, the normally adoring crowd met the premier's approach with a more subdued welcome.

Campbell promised local governments that regardless of harmonization, they would not pay additional sale tax. He also reiterated a pledge to announce upwards of $1 billion in new infrastructure spending in the coming week, making good on another previous promise to match federal stimulus dollars.