Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/9/2009 (2839 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Many expected the tone of the campaign would change some time before the Oct. 17 leadership convention. It appears it may happen as early as this week.
Minto MLA Andrew Swan, the first to declare his intention to seek the leadership, is expected to come out with guns blazing this week with an announcement that will target the campaign of St. Boniface MLA and former finance minister Greg Selinger.
Swan is expected to pledge that if he is elected leader and premier, he will not implement a harmonized sales tax (HST) before the next provincial election in 2011.
Given that Selinger has been Manitoba's representative in negotiations with Ottawa to harmonize Manitoba's provincial sales tax with the federal Goods and Services Tax, it's not hard to see the strategy here: Swan is trying to put Selinger between the proverbial tax and a hard place.
Being the first to disown a controversial issue is a pretty clever strategy when your chief opponent is the guy who is most closely associated with it. And there is a toxic quality to the whole HST debate that could be exploited in a short leadership contest.
Some businesses, like home builders, are angry that an HST will add tax to what had been a provincial-sales-tax-free industry. There is also the concern in some quarters that the HST is really just a shift in tax burden from business, which gets much larger input tax credits, to consumers, who have to pay 12 per cent sales tax on goods and services that previously only carried a five per cent levy.
However, can Swan hang the HST on Selinger? Although the former finance minister has been the point man with Ottawa, it would be incorrect to portray him as a cheerleader.
In interviews prior to Premier Gary Doer's resignation, Selinger was the consummate pragmatist. Selinger has acknowledged that by next summer, every province except Manitoba and Saskatchewan will have instituted the HST. Given that the more robust input tax credits make it popular with many businesses, Selinger acknowledged that not moving ahead with the HST could discourage some businesses from investing or locating here.
On the other hand, Selinger said he was concerned the HST was an unreasonable tax hike for consumers who have to pay more for things that used to be provincial-sales-tax-free. And that the increased input tax credits the province would have to shell out would put a strain on the provincial treasury.
Selinger is clearly concerned about being shackled to the HST. Since the leadership campaign began, he has been using more and more skeptical language to describe the chances of an HST arriving in Manitoba.
In an interview Sunday, Selinger said that to date, Ottawa has not offered nearly enough compensation to cushion the blow of lost revenue and offer rebates and credits to ease the burden on consumers. He said under the current terms being offered by Ottawa, "the HST is dead."
However, Selinger also suggested, for the first time, that if he becomes premier he will not implement the HST without consulting Manitobans in some fashion, including the possibility of a provincewide referendum.
Prior to Doer's resignation, the province's position was that if the HST were to be brought to Manitoba, it would likely have to be timed to coincide with the move next July to a harmonized sales tax in Ontario and B.C. Selinger is clearly back-pedalling as fast as he can from the issue while trying to match Swan's strategy of putting it into abeyance.
This could be great strategy for a leadership campaign, but it's unclear that it's good public policy for the province. With both Selinger and Swan unwilling to engage on the HST for at least 24 months to avoid a backlash from party loyalists and voters, it's going to be hard for either candidate to make a quality decision should he become leader.
And then there is the reaction in Ottawa to all this political posturing. If the federal government is not offering enough compensation to make the HST work in Manitoba, it's hard to see how using the issue as a political football in the NDP leadership campaign will generate a more generous offer.
For the time being, we'll have to be satisfied that with just over a month to go in the leadership campaign, the gloves are finally off.
Tax credit touted
for active lifestyles
GYM rats, beer-league hockey players and anyone else who keeps fit could get a tax credit if former finance minister Greg Selinger becomes premier.
"We could work it into the budget to encourage active lifestyles," he said Sunday afternoon.
Selinger was schmoozing bike-lovers on Broadway yesterday at the Ciclovia event, which lured hundreds downtown for a street party celebrating cycling and fitness.
Parents already get a $500 tax credit for every child 16 and under to help offset the cost of amateur sports, and Selinger said that credit ought to include adults.
NDP challenger Andrew Swan, the former competitiveness, training and trade minister, said he would try to boost fitness a different way. He said the tax credit tends to favour the wealthy, meaning a single mother with three children still has trouble affording a fitness class or new running shoes.
He said recreation and fitness programs should be consolidated in the Manitoba Healthy Living ministry, with its own separate budget.
Thompson MLA and former intergovernmental affairs minister Steve Ashton is also running for the NDP leadership.
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WHEN Gary Doer announced he was stepping down as Manitoba premier after a decade in power, he set the tone for the race to replace him. Doer said it was time for the party to "renew" itself and he used the word repeatedly in his news conference.
That has left the three candidates vying for his chair promising to bring fresh ideas to the party, and one of them is making age an issue.
"The premier's outgoing message is that it was time for the party to renew itself... and certainly that's where I, as the youngest candidate, can step forward and, I think, provide the best opportunity for doing that," says Andrew Swan.
At 41, Swan is more than 10 years younger than his two rivals. And he is quick to point out that the NDP's last three leaders -- Doer, Howard Pawley and Ed Schreyer -- were all selected while in their 30s or 40s.
The other two hopefuls can claim far more experience. Greg Selinger, 58, has been Doer's finance minister since the NDP was elected in 1999.
Steve Ashton, 53, has been in the legislature since 1981 and in cabinet since 1999.
-- Staff / The Canadian Press