Cameras will be allowed into a Manitoba court hearing next week into whether the NDP broke the law or was simply being a good steward of the economy when it raised the provincial sales tax by one point last year.
The decision to allow electronic media into the courtroom comes several weeks after the court officials first decided to televise certain cases under a pilot project aimed at increasing public access to justice and overall transparency in how the court system works. To date cameras have only recorded criminal matters.
At the same time, Progressive Conservative Party Leader Brian Pallister’s name will be added to the court filings.
Pallister said today the original paperwork only had The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba as the applicant. The province argued that as a political party, and not an incorporated association, the Tories did not have the capacity to bring a legal case against the government.
In a statement today, Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said Pallister should have known that the party’s name was insufficient on the legal paperwork.
"Brian Pallister should know from his own experience that political parties have generally not been allowed by to bring these types of cases forward," Howard said. "The key court decision that decided this question involved his own federal riding association when he was an MP."
Howard added: "We are confident the elected legislature acted appropriately, passing the measures necessary to make critical investments in infrastructure and flood protection."
Pallister said he agreed to add his name the PCs' court documents to put "an end to the NDP tactic to dodge its day in court."
The PCs argue that the NDP ran afoul of the law by hiking the PST without holding a public referendum, as required under the 1995 Taxpayer Protection Act. The Selinger government hiked the PST to eight per cent from seven per cent last July 1.
The Tories argue that by nixing the referendum, the NDP violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that the government infringed on the rights of Manitobans.
"To be sure, the supremacy of the legislature is such that it can do as it wishes, but jurisprudence instructs us, especially in a Charter context, that certain procedural and substantive due process safeguards must be met," the Tories say in their court brief.
The government says in its 44-page statement of defence that it is not a Charter case.
"This is a case about the maintenance of Canada’s constitutionally entrenched system of representative democracy, the jurisdiction of a provincial government to manage the provincial economy and the limits on the role of the court to intervene in the operation of the legislative branch of government," the province says.
"To accept the applicant’s argument would be contrary to the doctrine of parliamentary privilege and would constitute a profound and unprecedented intrusion of the courts into the legislative process."
Pallister said if the Tories lose their case, they’re already prepared to appeal.