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No desire to block paycheques: Pallister

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The Opposition Conservatives emphasized Monday they will not stand in the way of civil servants getting paid as they continue to hold up government business in protest against the July 1 PST increase.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister called a news conference to "clear the air" after the NDP government accused his party last week of threatening to propel the government over a "fiscal cliff."

He accused the NDP of fear-mongering for suggesting PC delay tactics in the legislature may affect services and prevent civil servants from getting paid.

Later Monday, the NDP, after trying unsuccessfully several times last week, succeeded in introducing an interim supply bill that would provide the government with enough money to operate well into the fall. Bill 48 would also allow the province to proceed with capital projects. Debate on the bill began immediately after it was introduced.

The Selinger government has said it has enough money to cover paycheques to public servants on Friday. However, without quick passage of the interim appropriation act, the following pay date (Aug. 9) would be in doubt.

"It's taken longer than it should have (to proceed with the appropriation bill). We could have dealt with this easily last week," government house leader Jennifer Howard said after Bill 48 was introduced. "I think we should be able to pass the bill in a couple of days."

Howard said the government would not run out of money prematurely if the legislation is passed this week.

The Conservatives have stalled the Selinger administration's legislative agenda, saying the New Democrats broke a promise when they announced in April they would hike the PST without holding a referendum. Included in the stacks of bills awaiting approval is the government's budget-implementation legislation.

But Pallister said it has never been his party's intention to prevent public servants from being paid -- or to scare them that such a scenario was possible. He said he has made that very clear, but the government has chosen to try to scare Manitobans into believing otherwise.

"I don't want any health-care worker, any nurse, any social worker, anybody who is dependent on a paycheque from the Government of Manitoba, to be afraid because of what the government is doing," he said Monday.

During question period Monday, Conservative MLA Bonnie Mitchelson (River East) blasted the government over an email from the deputy minister of family service and labour to department employees on Friday. The email contained a link to a Free Press story published the same day, quoting Howard that Opposition stalling tactics were jeopardizing civil servants' August paycheques. "Please know that senior management are aware of this and are monitoring it closely," the email from deputy minister Jeff Parr reads in part.

Mitchelson accused Howard of orchestrating the letter to stir up fears for political reasons. Howard responded that Parr decided on his own to send the message to department staff.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2013 A7

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