Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Face voters soon on PST hike, Pallister urges NDP

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PUT the PST increase to Manitoba voters, Opposition Leader Brian Pallister says.

Pallister says Premier Greg Selinger should call a general election to defend his government's July 1 increase of the provincial sales tax.

The PST rose to eight per cent from seven per cent.

Pallister said in the absence of a referendum on the tax hike, the New Democrats should instead allow Manitobans to voice their opinions on the tax at the ballot box.

"It did not receive a mandate to increase the PST," Pallister said of the NDP. "It promised to not raise taxes and is proposing to do so now without making the case that it should, and so the government must do one of two things: either call a referendum on the PST or call an election and let Manitobans decide.

"I think it's the right thing for them to do."

The government has already tabled legislation that would allow it to raise the PST without a referendum as outlined under the Balanced Budget Act. Bill 20 is to come up for a vote in the legislative assembly after the house resumes sitting Nov. 12.

The NDP said there will not be an election until Oct. 6, 2015, the date under the province's fixed-date election law. Should there be a federal election that fall, the election will be held April 19, 2016.

"Mr. Pallister knows his proposed scheme is not an option and it will not distract from his other proposals to cut from services and bring American-style two-tier health care to Manitoba," an NDP spokeswoman said.

The NDP is halfway through its mandate, having won a fourth consecutive majority government in the October 2011 general election.

Pallister said he still believes an election should be called soon, especially after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed the NDP ignored the advice of government bureaucrats in raising the PST.

"That tells you the level to which this government has sunk," he said.

Finance Minister Stan Struthers has said the document the CTF released pertained more to a discussion within government over the proposed tax hike, nothing more.

"Our legal experts have assured us we have the authority to move forward on this," he said of the tax increase without a referendum.

Pallister said the Tories still plan to take the government to court over the imposition of the PST without a referendum.

In July, Pallister said his party had retained prominent Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper to ask a judge to declare Bill 20 invalid.

Pallister said the party's case can only go forward after Bill 20 is passed.

"We can only move it forward when the bill becomes law," he said. "At that point, we'll then question the validity of the law."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2013 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 8:06 AM CDT: Adds audio, adds photo

9:45 AM: Changed audio clip.

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