The logjam otherwise known as the Manitoba legislature is broken.
A deal between the opposition parties and the NDP will see Bill 20, the legislation to hike the provincial sales tax without a referendum, pass second reading tonight or Friday morning.
It means public hearings on the controversial bill will start next Thursday evening, likely at 6 p.m., to hear from 30 presenters. No hearings will be held on the Friday or over the Canada Day long weekend.
Hearings will continue July 2 and each evening that week, all to hear from 30 presenters each. A hearing date has also been set for Saturday July 6 to start at 10 a.m. to hear from 60 people. July 8 and 9 have also been set aside.
"It does get the house moving and that’s a good thing," NDP House Leader Jennifer Howard said.
So far, 210 people have signed up with the clerk’s office to speak to Bill 20.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said what’s significant about the deal for the opposition parties is that Bill 20 will not pass final reading until after July 1, the day the tax hike to eight per cent takes effect.
"It’s kind of a black mark on the NDP," Gerrard said.
Under the agreement, Bill 20 will only go to a vote on second reading when Progressive Conservative House Leader Kelvin Goertzen finishes his filibuster on the bill. The Steinbach MLA was granted unlimited speaking time on Bill 20 in one of several procedural delays that have blocked the NDP’s legislative and spending agenda. Goertzen was speaking after 6 p.m.
The deal also says the same process for structured committee meetings on Bill 20 will be used for Bill 18, the government’s anti-bullying bill that would require all schools to accommodate student anti-bullying clubs, including gay-straight alliances, should students want them.
Bill 18 will likely go to second reading in the second week of July. So far 265 people have signed up to speak on it.
The deal comes on the same day the Opposition Tories hosted a rally outside the legislative building that attracted about 150 people.
The deal does not cover Bill 33, the legislation to amalgamate smaller municipalities.
In a release, the Progressive Conservatives said it’s time Manitobans had their say on Bill 20.
"While Manitobans really deserve a referendum, this move offers Manitobans a chance to have their say at committee. Make no mistake, we will continue to stand up for Manitobans," PC Leader Brian Pallister said in the release.