July 4, 2015


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Analysis: NDP hoping to prove they still have something to offer with throne speech

So, does it buy the NDP more time?

Does today’s throne speech help the Selinger government recover from its raising of the PST and subsequent misstep in poorly justifying it?

Premier Greg Selinger listens to Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee read the Speech from the Throne in the Manitoba Legislature Monday afternoon.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Premier Greg Selinger listens to Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee read the Speech from the Throne in the Manitoba Legislature Monday afternoon. Photo Store

What the speech does do is better clarify what "core" and "significant" infrastructure means to the NDP.

Shortly after the tax hike came into effect July 1, the government’s definition of infrastructure included basketball courts and bike paths.

No more.

Core and strategic infrastructure now means what most of us think it means: highways, bridges, transportation infrastructure like Highway 75, the TransCanada Highway east of the city, the extension of bus rapid transit to the University of Manitoba and the Headingly bypass to divert trucks around the town to the new Centreport development west of the airport.

Also in the definition are municipal infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer.

It’s not that basketball courts and bike courts aren’t important — they’re just not as important as these bigger ticket items for a government struggling in the polls.

The NDP’s popularity took a nose dive shortly after the tax increase came into effect and they’re chomping at the bit to regain some respectability.

The speech does contain some shiny baubles to show us what the New Democrats intend to do with our money in the years ahead, a lot of it focused on education and training. But a lot of it we’ve heard before, like plans to twin Highway 59 to Grand Beach.

We’re two years away from the next election, perhaps longer if voting day is put over to April 2016.

The NDP are now betting today’s speech rights a wobbly ship and that it’s full steam ahead.

They’re also banking that Manitobans have short memories. Or easily distracted.

It’s worth remembering that the PST increase is just one part of what the NDP have done in the past couple of years.

Last year, the NDP expanded the PST to services such as pedicures, manicures, tattoos, piercings, and haircuts more than $50 and on some insurance products. Last March, the beer and liquor prices went up.

The next four weeks should give us a glimpse of whether the NDP have got their mojo back. The fall sitting is to go Dec. 5. In the scheme of things it’s not a lot of time, but it’s everything for the Premier Greg Selinger and his recently-shuffled cabinet. They need to demonstrate that they know what they’re doing.

And that they still have something to offer.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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