December 4, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Stall tactics by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives are jeopardizing August paycheques for civil servants, NDP house leader Jennifer Howard said Thursday.
For the fourth day in a row Thursday, Howard tried and failed to introduce a temporary money bill that would keep the government in the black after July 31 when a special funding warrant expires. That interim money-supply bill would put about $7 billion in government coffers.
Howard also asked for unanimous consent for MLAs for a special sitting today to deal with the interim-supply measure, but she didn't get it. Today is a day off for MLAs.
Howard said the government has funding in place to make its payroll July 26, but not for the next paycheque for government employees on Aug. 4.
-- Tory house leader Kelvin Goertzen
"That pay period could be missed," Howard said. "We don't have the PIN to the bank card after July 31."
The delay in the budget-approval and legislative process is mostly due to Tory opposition to Bill 20, which would allow the government to raise the PST without a public referendum. The procedural delays the Tories are using forced the legislature to go into an emergency sitting, which heads into its fourth week Monday. The sitting started April 16 with the tabling of the new budget and was supposed to end June 13, but only Thursday did the first phase of the budget-approval process end. That phase normally takes about three weeks -- it took almost two months instead.
Bill 20 has yet to receive third reading almost three months after it was introduced, although the PST increase of one percentage point took effect July 1. The NDP's anti-bullying bill and another to amalgamate smaller municipalities are also stuck in limbo, with public hearings still to be scheduled.
Howard said there's no logical reason for the Tories to drag their feet on interim supply as PC Leader Brian Pallister has already said his party would support it and not put the day-to-day business of government at risk.
-- NDP house leader Jennifer Howard
"I don't know why they want to wait," she said. "I don't know how that serves Brian Pallister's political agenda. You don't wait until catastrophe to act. And these guys want to be government? I shudder to think about that."
PC house leader Kelvin Goertzen said Howard's words ring hollow as there is no looming "fiscal cliff."
"This is self-induced hysteria," Goertzen said. "They have absolutely no ability to manage this so they cause panic.
"The only fiscal risk is the fiscal risk of their own making. The only fiscal risk is if this government stays in power."
Meanwhile, the legislature's division bells rang for almost two hours straight Thursday, calling all MLAs to vote on two Opposition motions to reduce ministerial salaries to $1.08, the eight cents symbolically representing the eight per cent provincial sales tax.
The Tories have made similar motions for all NDP ministers, a move that has eaten up a lot of time on the legislative clock as the bells for each $1.08 motion ring for a maximum one hour prior to the vote.
The last vote ended at the end of the day Thursday, but now the house moves on to the next phase of the budget-approval process, opening up a whole new basket of ways the Tories can stall house business, Howard said.
"How is this being responsible to Manitobans?" she asked.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 A3
Updated on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 6:54 AM CDT: