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Attendance high, opinions mixed at Thursday PST hearings

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NDP MLAs felt a little more love Thursday night as a handful of union leaders and left-leaning policy wonks spoke in favour of the PST hike.

Speaking at another evening of committee hearings on Bill 20, Norm Gould, vice-president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, told MLAs the PST hike and proper investments in education are a needed antidote to the cuts of the 1990s.

"I am here today because the teachers of Manitoba support legislation that demonstrates that this government has chosen a different path to one that would place the burden of short-sighted leadership on the backs of students," said Gould.

Thursday was the fourth evening of hearings, and bucked speculation attendance would drop off now that the PST hike is in place and the sweltering legislature is notably uncomfortable.

Earlier this week, Tuesday’s hearing ended early when more than half the speakers were no-shows. But almost all 26 speakers showed up Wednesday, keeping MLAs at the table until 11:30 p.m. The Thursday hearing is on track to do the same, even though the PST hike is now four days old.

Most people who spoke Thursday were vehemently opposed to the PST hike, a familiar refrain for MLAs. But others, including Lynne Fernandez from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the NDP is making a wise long-term decision despite the short-term political pain.

The hearings into Bill 20 could wrap up Saturday, though dates have been set aside next week if needed.

Maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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