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Fight against PST hike not over: Pallister

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Tory opposition to the NDP’s boosting of the provincial sales tax is far from over, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said today.

Pallister said his Tories are planning another anti-tax-hike rally Sept. 28 at the Jonathan Toews Community Centre and will launch a letter-writing campaign in the coming days to ask Manitobans to get more involved in the tax protest.

"Proceeding that, we’ll be blitzing the city with an informational mail drop," he said, adding the PCs are asking Manitobans for advice on how they can carry on what they call the "unnecessary" PST hike.

The tax increase to eight per cent took effect July 1, but Bill 20, the enabling legislation to increase the tax without a referendum, did not pass this sitting and has been put over to November when MLAs return.

"They do have power," Pallister said of Manitobans. "They do have the possibility of changing this bill. We need them to believe in that."

Pallister also said since the one-point increase was announced by the NDP in April the Selinger government has held 150 spending announcements that exceed $1.2 billion.

"The government appears willing to promise just about anything to get Manitobans to believe that the PST hike is somehow good for them," Pallister said.

Pallister added the Tory’s website StandUpManitoba.com has seen more than 4,300 people send letters to their MLA or Premier Greg Selinger opposing the tax increase.

He said since July 1, the NDP has seen more than $60 million in new revenue.

"The government wants Manitobans to put this all behind them and move on," he said. "We’re saying that the bill hasn’t passed yet and there’s time. We must use that time wisely."

The NDP have said money raised through the tax is to go towards infrastructure projects and that the government will report back to Manitobans where the money was spent.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer has said her office will conduct, at the government’s request, an annual audit of how the tax revenue is spent under the new Manitoba Building and Renewal Plan.

"We'll stand by our commitment that this money is going to what the people of Manitoba intend for us to put it towards, and that's infrastructure," Finance Minister Stan Struthers said in an earlier interview. "Our intention is you'll be able to see exactly where that money has gone to. Our intention is to be very open about where this money is going." 

Today the government said today it will give Festival du Voyageur $100,000 from the Winnipeg Community Infrastructure Program to rehabilitate the wooden palisade of Fort Gibraltar and three cabins located within the fort. Renovations include replacing the roofs and eaves troughs, replacing rotten logs and cement as well as insulating the cabins.

The Manitoba Building and Renewal Plan committed $7.5 million over the next three years to the Winnipeg Community Infrastructure Program. It makes grants available for projects such as libraries, swimming pools and splash pads, parks, trails, community centres, sports facilities including arenas and gymnasiums, as well as other community infrastructure facilities.

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