Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/10/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
A Manitoba cabinet minister is apologizing for characterizing people who oppose the government's provincial sales tax increase as "howling coyotes."
Ron Lemieux, minister for local government, made the comment in the legislature last week. He said presenters at public hearings who support the tax increase weren't heard "over the din of the howling coyotes that we heard all night."
"Members opposite were there clapping to some of the comments that were made that were really disrespectful," Lemieux said last Thursday.
On Tuesday, he said he was referring to opposition MLAs when he made the coyote comment. But Lemieux conceded the legislative transcript does seem to suggest he was referring to people who were critical of the government.
"I was making my comments about the members of the opposition," Lemieux said in the legislature. "I should never have done that in the first place. We're trying to treat this as a respectful workplace and I should have never geared my comments to the members opposite. They certainly were not geared to the public that... spent hot evenings presenting thoughtful presentations on both sides of the issue.
"If those individuals who came to present felt somehow that they were slighted by my comments, I regret that very, very much."
Public hearings were "hot and sweaty and sticky," but that didn't deter some from spending most of the evening waiting to have their say, Lemieux said.
"We really respected that."
About 130 people spoke out about the PST hike at hearings which concluded on the weekend. The increase -- to eight per cent from seven -- has been collected since July 1, even though the bill regarding the sales tax hasn't been passed yet in the legislature.
As part of the budget bill, the NDP government is changing the law so it doesn't have to hold a referendum on the tax increase. The government has argued it needs the extra revenue to pay for improving infrastructure.
House leader Jennifer Howard, who attended many of the hearings, said government members were respectful and attentive, even in the face of some very angry presenters.
"Could (Lemieux) have chosen his words more wisely? Absolutely," she said. "That happens to all of us."
Howard said Manitobans are practical and realize that if they want to maintain important public services such as health care and education, they need to pay for them.
But the Opposition says Lemieux's comments show the disrespect the NDP government has for the law and those who oppose the tax increase. Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister pointed out the public hearings were held after retailers had already begun collecting it July 1.
"They sent that message that we're going to do it anyway, so why even bother coming?" Pallister said. "That's just undemocratic. It's disrespectful to people and people can make a difference."
As of Tuesday, the province had already collected $6.5 million in the extra tax, according to the Conservatives.
Pallister said the increase is by no means a done deal -- and the Tories are prepared to take the matter to court.
"Our resolve is tremendously high," he said. "This process is not over."
-- The Canadian Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 A4
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Boy who gave up Jets stick gets surprise gift
Province cuts ties with Osborne House board
Steinbach man allegedly assaults RCMP officer
Plane towed to terminal after mechanical issue reported
Trio facing drug charges in Steinbach
Appeals of first-degree murder convictions dismissed
Man sentenced to 6 months in jail for prolonged domestic attack
Bowman says city looking at 'efficiencies' to cut pool costs
Selinger claims 'vast majority' of delegates in leadership race
Bowman defends tax hikes as strategic investments
Downtown to get off-leash dog park
Manitoba Museum to get $5.3-M expansion
Fewer Manitobans add to RRSPs: BMO
Reducing business tax will spur growth: Bowman
Agassiz chalet dismantled and burned
Stadium owner to sue architect, builder over water drainage, insulation problems
Four kids taken to hospital as precaution after school bus crash
Twain to play MTS Centre in June
Charges for man after Beausejour store assault
Unwanted guest -- winter -- lingers
Upgraded traffic system to be up and running in 2016
Not a hidden tax hike: mayor
Singles night at Safeway causes a stir on Twitter
No early release for ex-officer
Frigid today, but warm weekend on the way
'Old-style politics' despite a promise
Surprise plea in Project Distress
Police probe boy's death on reserve as a homicide
BUDGET 2015: Highlights from the City of Winnipeg's 2015 spending blueprint
Voters' honeymoon period still in effect for new mayor, poll indicates
Panhandler sends message with food in café
RCMP lay charges against man in Beausejour store attack
Property tax or not a property tax — that is the question
Free Press journalist receives honourable mention for coverage of Brian Sinclair inquest
Project Distress target pleads guilty to drug charges
Runners being collected for women in need
Cost of Neepawa blaze pegged at $3M
Bird counts still being tallied, but number of birders up in Great Backyard Count
Property tax increase capped, but frontage levies, garbage fees to increase