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Tory MLA to filibuster on PST until 5, then continue during next debate

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Steinbach Tory MLA Kelvin Goertzen has 110 minutes to speak against the PST in the Manitoba legislature.

Goertzen began his filibuster on Bill 20 at 3:10 p.m. He is set to wind up at 5 p.m.

He might have gone far longer: The NDP asked for unanimous consent of MLAs for the legislature to sit all night until 9 a.m. on Wednesday. But the Conservatives demurred.

Bill 20 would allow the Selinger government to raise the retail sales tax to eight per cent without the need of a public referendum. The controversial measure has tied up the business of the House for weeks, and it looks as though it will continue to do so.

Since the Conservatives did not agree to extend the business day of the House beyond 5 p.m., Goertzen will get to extend his filibuster — assuming his voice doesn’t give out this afternoon — the next time the bill is called for debate. It is now in second reading. Once it passes second reading, the government will give the public a week’s notice of the beginning of committee hearings on Bill 20. So far, 207 Manitobans have registered to speak on it.

Earlier, the NDP taunted the Conservatives, pointing out that Thompson MLA Steve Ashton spoke for six hours — from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. — at a 1996 committee meeting against the bill that enabled the privatization of the Manitoba Telephone System.

Today’s legislature debates took an unusual turn when the NDP caused the chamber’s division bells to ring — to summon MLAs for a recorded vote — a tactic the Tories have used for weeks to delay proceedings.

House Leader Jennifer Howard said later that the NDP wanted to make a statement that the Speaker’s rulings should be respected.

The Tories had just challenged a ruling by Speaker Daryl Reid that went against their party. Reid ruled that a Tory-introduced contempt motion against Kirkfield Park NDP MLA Sharon Blady was not in order. The Conservatives had argued Blady showed contempt for the legislature for comments she allegedly made to a group of young Tories campaigning in her a constituency.

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