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NDP done with major tax hikes, Selinger pledges

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BRANDON — Premier Greg Selinger says he is not contemplating any further major tax hikes for Manitobans along the lines of the PST increase announced in the April budget.

Selinger said the government now has in place the revenues it needs to carry out a decade-long plan to repair roads, invest in schools and hospitals and protect residents from flooding.

"We plan to move forward with the resources we’ve got," he told reporters today at the conclusion of the NDP’s annual convention in Brandon. "We will keep Manitoba among the most affordable places to live in the country."

The provincial government incurred the wrath of many Manitobans when it announced it was increasing the provincial sales tax to eight per cent as of July 1. The one percentage point increase will raise some $275 million a year in extra revenue.

But it was evident on the weekend that the NDP faithful, at least, have accepted the government’s rationale that the tax hike is necessary to pay for a broad range of infrastructure programs that it says Manitobans want. The more than 400 delegates even overwhelmingly passed a resolution backing the tax hike (without referring to it by name). The motion commended the government for "raising revenue responsibly."

The Progressive Conservatives have denounced the proposed PST hike and are stalling a bill in the legislature that would allow the government to implement it without a public referendum. The Tories argue that government has sufficient revenues; it must simply manage better with what it has.

However, NDP strategists announced this weekend they are prepared to fight the next election campaign on the benefits to Manitobans of raising the PST.

Before the convention wound up this morning, NDP delegates considered several resolutions under the theme of "equality and social justice."

Notably, they passed unanimously a motion to urge the government to raise the rental allowance paid to those on social assistance to 75 per cent of median market rates. It’s something that has been repeatedly demanded by anti-poverty activists. Recently, Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, to the delight of activists, endorsed the policy.

The NDP has so far refused to boost the housing allowance, saying it has increased assistance to welfare recipients in other ways. But the unanimous motion at the party’s convention could cause the government to rethink its approach. Selinger said afterwards he would reconsider the idea.

Meanwhile, the party also unanimously passed a resolution encouraging the government to provide for paid employment leave for victims of domestic violence.

Selinger later called that idea a "worthy concept."

"We will examine whether it makes sense. We will discuss it with employers and workers organizations. And we’ll see how we can move forward on it."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 1:58 PM CDT: Minor editing of punctuation.

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