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Flood protection an 'excuse for jacking up taxes': Tories

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The Selinger government was accused today of trying to create a "crisis" over flood protection to justify raising taxes when its record of investments in flood protection has been so-so.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister calculated that since the NDP came to power in 1999, it has spent less than one-half of one per cent of its budgets on flood mitigation and prevention.

This occurred despite the fact that the government has enjoyed record revenues, adjusted for inflation, he said.

Pallister told a news conference the government attempted to justify a proposed PST hike July 1 by arguing it needed to spend $1 billion in flood protection. But it doesn’t have a flood-infrastructure spending plan.

Several of the projects it has discussed as potential flood solutions have been on the drawing board for more than a half a century, the PC leader said, showing off a stack of old reports.

"They’ve tried to manufacture unsuccessfully a crisis of their own making," Pallister said of the government.

"It’s an excuse for jacking up taxes. Nothing more."

Pallister said that in a time of prosperity, the government could have made progress on some of the flood-mitigation projects it is now touting, such as a new outlet channel from Lake Manitoba and fortifying the banks of the Assiniboine River east of Portage la Prairie to Headingley.

The Filmon government in the 1990s had fewer resources to tackle such projects, he said, due to a recession and federal cutbacks.

Pallister said that if he were in power, he would make an outlet channel from Lake Manitoba to Lake Winnipeg a spending priority. "I believe that the money could be found to do that project. I believe it’s urgent it (the money) be found."

As for other projects, he said the Conservatives would set priorities and work within the confines of the government’s fiscal capability to accomplish them. The Tories vehemently reject the need for a one-point hike in the PST.

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