Women's clothing retailer Connie Hall can attest to the fact the Selinger government's planned PST hike July 1 is unpopular with Manitobans.
Hall said Wednesday she's been getting an earful on the tax rise from customers ever since the NDP announced it in its April 16 budget. She's worried it will send those customers to the U.S.
"Taxes are a dirty word at the counter," she said, as she hosted a press conference by Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister that was intended to draw attention to the harm the tax hike will cause to small businesses and their customers.
'(Tax increases) kill jobs. They kill opportunities for young people. They kill opportunities for small businesses to grow and to create the kinds of job opportunities that we need in this province'
Hall's Whyte Ridge establishment, Peppertree Fashions, in its 14th year, caters to women age 40 and older.
To underscore her customers' antipathy toward taxes, she told reporters of two recent sales she instituted to drum up business. One week last month, with cold temperatures sapping the life of sales, she held a sale with 25 per cent off. It brought in a trickle of people.
"The following weekend I ran a 'we pay the PST and GST equivalent,' and it was phenomenal," Hall said of the boost in sales.
People hate taxes so much, she concluded, 12 per cent off was a greater lure than 25 per cent off when it meant not having to pay the tax.
Pallister's Conservatives have been using every tactical measure they can muster in the legislature to slow, if not stall, the NDP's legislative agenda this spring to make the tax hike as difficult as possible on the government.
Bill 20, which would eliminate the legal requirement on government to hold a referendum before raising the PST, income taxes or business taxes, has yet to receive second reading. Already, 179 Manitobans have signed up to speak on the bill when it reaches the committee stage.
As each day passes, it's becoming more likely the bill may not pass before the PST's scheduled increase on July 1. The government has said one way or the other, the tax will rise to eight per cent on that date. But a failure to pass Bill 20 by then could open the government to a legal challenge.
Manitobans have expressed anger at the tax hike. A hastily organized protest brought out 500 people to the legislature recently.
And it appears many Manitobans don't believe the government's reasons for jacking up the tax. An Angus Reid poll, conducted for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, found 81 per cent of Manitobans were not very confident or not confident at all that the additional point in PST revenues would be dedicated toward infrastructure spending and flood prevention. The poll, released Wednesday, is considered accurate within 4.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Pallister said tax increases such as the PST hike hurt the economy.
"They kill jobs. They kill opportunities for young people. They kill opportunities for small businesses to grow and to create the kinds of job opportunities that we need in this province," he said.
Tammy Jensen, part-owner of Jensen Nursery and Landscaping Ltd., a 40-year business on McGillivray Boulevard, said she's worried a PST increase in July will continue to weigh down her business, which is already suffering because of a cold spring.
Jensen, who employs up to 25 people during peak periods, said she cannot yet commit to hiring students in July because of the uncertainty created by the tax hike and the weather.