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Judge reserves decision in PST hike case

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A judge has reserved his decision in the Progressive Conservatives' legal challenge of the NDP’s hike to the provincial sales tax one year ago.

Queen's Bench judge Kenneth Hanssen did not say when he would make his decision, other than to say he needed a little while.

Hanssen has to decide whether the NDP violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it hiked the PST without having a referendum as outlined in the 1995 Taxpayer Protection Act. The act was brought in under the Tory government of Gary Filmon.

Brian Pallister's PCs argue the NDP's one percentage point tax hike robbed Manitobans the right to vote on the tax increase, because the New Democrats, in one fell swoop, did away with the need for a referendum when they raised the tax.

"Why do it in one bill?" the PC's lawyer Robert Tapper said in court today. "Was it arrogance?"

The Selinger government hiked the PST to eight per cent from seven per cent July 1, 2013 and said revenue raised from it will fix roads, highways and other infrastructure projects.

Tapper argued that by nixing the referendum, the NDP violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and infringed on the rights of Manitobans, specifically the freedom of expression and liberty of assembly.

Government lawyer Jonathan Kroft told Hanssen that Tapper's case was no more than a political argument.

He also said in law, the Charter has no application in the case, and that the government was completely in its authority to do away with the referendum requirement and raise the PST in a single bill.

"At least on this side of Broadway, we have to look at the Charter and what it says," Kroft said, adding the courts have no business dictating what elected MLAs do.

Pallister has said that if the Tories lose the case, they will appeal.

He also said outside court that if elected premier in the next election, he will reverse the increase.

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 11:58 AM CDT: Adds live video feed

12:25 PM: Notes court will resume at 1:30 p.m.

1:39 PM: Court has resumed.

3:23 PM: Updates with full write-through

3:29 PM: Removes live video feed

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