Manitobans got a chance to vent their anger at the Selinger government Thursday evening over its decision to raise the PST. And they didn't pull any punches.
"You assured voters that you could balance the budget without raising the taxes. You lied," said William Pfeiffer of St. Adolphe.
Pfeiffer said the Conservatives were more honest than the NDP during the 2011 election campaign about how long it would take the province to balance the books.
"You were outright dishonest," he told several government MLAs sitting on the committee, adding they owed Manitobans an apology.
About 50 people attended the first legislative committee hearing into Bill 20, which would allow the government to raise the retail sales tax without holding a referendum. Thirty Manitobans were scheduled to make presentations Thursday night. More than two hours into the session, there was unanimous condemnation of the tax hike.
Time and again, presenters condemned the NDP government for failing to live within its means, for breaking its word on raising the PST and for introducing legislation to avoid a referendum on the matter.
Eric Pollman, a 43-year-old stay-at-home dad, said raising the PST would make it more difficult for his family to pay the bills.
He noted the NDP has significantly raised taxes in the past two budgets. And he doesn't buy the government's reasons -- improved infrastructure and flood mitigation -- for hiking the PST to eight per cent on July 1.
"You've been in power for how long and you didn't see this coming?" he exclaimed. "Everybody knows concrete gets old; everybody knows rivers swell. This is part of living here."
Regan Archambault, who runs a real estate firm with her husband, Geoff, said the PST hike would cost her business thousands of dollars each year.
She also said the hike, when added onto other recent government tax increases, will make it more difficult for first-time buyers to afford a home.
Archambault said the government must become better at managing taxpayers' money.
"If I ran my household the way this government is running our provincial purse strings, I'd be bankrupt and lose everything," she said.
Don Woodstock, a two-time provincial Liberal candidate, provided some levity Thursday when he concluded his 10-minute submission with a song, accompanied by two backup singers.
Changing the words to Ben E. King's Don't Play That Song. You Lied, the trio warbled: "I remember just what Greg said/ He said/ (We won't raise taxes) We know that he lied!"
Each presenter had a time limit of 15 minutes, including time for questions from MLAs.
The session began at 6 p.m. and was still running well after deadline.
Premier Greg Selinger did not attend the hearing. His staff said he boarded a plane for Utah earlier Thursday to attend a meeting of U.S. western governors.
Finance Minister Stan Struthers, the sponsor of the controversial bill, was in attendance, as was Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister.
Struthers asked no questions of presenters but thanked each one of them for their comments.