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Manitoba chambers call for PST referendum

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About 500 protesters braved the chilly evening last Thursday to protest the Selinger government's planned PST hike.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

About 500 protesters braved the chilly evening last Thursday to protest the Selinger government's planned PST hike. Photo Store

Another group is voicing its opposition to the Selinger government's proposed PST hike.

In an unanimous resolution, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce used its annual general meeting this weekend to call on the provincial government to respect the current Balanced Budget Legislation and ensure a referendum occurs before increasing the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) to eight per cent.

"Chambers across the province are clearly concerned with not only the government's decision to increase the PST but also the manner in which they are trying to accomplish it", said Chuck Davidson, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce President and CEO.

"Chambers are also concerned there is no clear way to address the municipal infrastructure deficit and makes Manitoba's uncompetitive tax framework even more unattractive."

Across the province, residents have rallied against increasing the sales tax to eight per cent on July 1 and most of the anger is directed at the way the NDP handled the hike.

The government has introduced legislation to bypass a public referendum on the tax hike, as required under current law.

The tax hike has dominated debate during the spring sitting of the legislature. It was announced in the April 16 budget.

By at least one measure, Bill 20 is already one of the most contentious pieces of legislation the NDP has introduced in years.

By last week, 152 Manitobans had registered with the clerk of the legislative assembly to speak on the bill when it reaches committee stage.

No bill has received that amount of interest since 2008, when 268 people addressed MLAs on a proposed law that would ban expansion of the hog industry in certain parts of Manitoba. That bill was passed.

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