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PST challenge set for TV, web

Tory leader adds name to court filing

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Brian Pallister, leader of the Manitoba Conservative party, speaks to about 500 people gathered on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg in May 2013 to protest the NDP's proposed provincial sales tax hike.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Brian Pallister, leader of the Manitoba Conservative party, speaks to about 500 people gathered on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg in May 2013 to protest the NDP's proposed provincial sales tax hike.

Manitobans will be able to watch on TV and online a court hearing next week into the NDP's 2013 decision to raise the provincial sales tax by one percentage point.

The decision to allow electronic media into the courtroom comes about six weeks after court officials decided to televise certain cases under a pilot project aimed at increasing public access to the justice system. Cameras have only recorded criminal matters so far.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister's name will be added to the court filings.

Pallister said Friday the original paperwork listed the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba as the applicant. The province argued that as a political party, and not an incorporated association, the Tories did not have the capacity to bring a legal case against the government.

Pallister said he agreed to add his name to the court documents to put "an end to the NDP tactic to dodge its day in court."

'Brian Pallister should know from his own experience that political parties have generally not been allowed to bring these types of cases forward' -- Finance Minister Jennifer Howard

The Tories argue the NDP ran afoul of the law by hiking the PST without holding a public referendum, as required under the 1995 Taxpayer Protection Act, an act brought in under the Tory government of Gary Filmon.

The Tories say the Manitoba Building and Renewal Funding and Fiscal Management Act raised the PST and removed the referendum requirement. They maintain legislation was required for both.

"I don't think that any court case can establish that this was fair," he said. "I don't think that any court case can establish that this was moral. I don't think that any court case can establish that this was in the best interest of a single Manitoban."

The Selinger government hiked the PST to eight per cent from seven per cent July 1 and said revenue raised from it will fix roads, highways and other infrastructure projects.

In a statement, Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said Pallister should have known the party's name was insufficient on the legal paperwork and referred to a 2003 case on the law relating to the nature and status of unincorporated associations.

"Brian Pallister should know from his own experience that political parties have generally not been allowed to bring these types of cases forward," Howard said. "The key court decision that decided this question involved his own federal riding association when he was an MP."

Howard added: "We are confident the elected legislature acted appropriately, passing the measures necessary to make critical investments in infrastructure and flood protection."

The Tories argue by nixing the referendum, the NDP violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and infringed on the rights Manitobans.

"To be sure, the supremacy of the legislature is such that it can do as it wishes, but jurisprudence instructs us, especially in a charter context, that certain procedural and substantive due process safeguards must be met," the Tories say in their court brief.

Pallister said if the Tories lose the case, they will appeal.

"Frankly, it comes down to a question of whether you want to kneel before this government or not," he said. "I don't want to kneel."

The government says in its 44-page statement of defence it is not a charter case.

"This is a case about the maintenance of Canada's constitutionally entrenched system of representative democracy, the jurisdiction of a provincial government to manage the provincial economy and the limits on the role of the court to intervene in the operation of the legislative branch of government," the province says.

"To accept the applicant's argument would be contrary to the doctrine of parliamentary privilege and would constitute a profound and unprecedented intrusion of the courts into the legislative process."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 31, 2014 A4

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