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Pallister says Tories will challenge PST law in court

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Manitoba PC Leader Brian Pallister

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Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives say they’ll challenge the province’s PST law in the courts, if they can’t stop it from passing the legislature.

PC Leader Brian Pallister said today his party will organize a lawsuit against Bill 20 if and when it becomes law.

At a news conference this afternoon, Pallister, surrounded by caucus members, announced that the Tories have retained prominent Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper to fight Bill 20 in the courts if they are unable to stop it from passing in the legislature.

The Conservatives claim the Selinger government is on the wrong side of the law in hiking the PST without holding a public referendum. The NDP has said that it’s within its rights to implement a tax hike before passing the enabling legislation. Now, it looks as though the courts will ultimately decide who is correct.

"We’re standing with Manitobans today against an injustice the provincial government is trying to perpetuate against all Manitobans and our future," Pallister said.

The Manitoba retail sales tax hike took effect on Monday. But Tapper said he cannot launch a lawsuit until Bill 20 is passed.

"You can’t take a challenge against legislation that doesn’t exist. The legislation simply doesn’t exist at this stage," he told reporters. "Until it exists and is formally law, when it gets royal assent, there’s nothing that can be done, unfortunately."

Committee hearings on Bill 20 resume this evening at 6 p.m. at the Legislative Building At the first public hearing last Thursday, speaker after speaker condemned the government for breaking its promise not to raise taxes and for not permitting a referendum on the PST increase.

Pallister said the Conservative party itself cannot sue. But he said one or a group of Conservatives will launch the action on behalf of the party.

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