Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tories to continue PST fight into July

Pallister determined to block NDP tax hike

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PROGRESSIVE Conservative Leader Brian Pallister confirmed Monday the house will sit into July in an effort to block an NDP bill to raise the provincial sales tax to eight per cent.

The Tories have used a variety of procedural tactics to stall second reading of the NDP's Bill 20, which also removes the legal requirement to hold a public referendum before bringing in a tax increase.

"We want to make sure that we are here in July to make the case as best we possibly can that this is not a smart course of action, that the government should not raise the PST, but more importantly should not tear up the Taxpayer Protection Act either because it really benefits our province to have it in place," Pallister said.

'We can't just have a government jack up taxes willy-nilly as it wishes to'

-- Brian Pallister

"I'm going to do everything I can in my power -- and our party will and our members here will -- to make sure that we make the case as best we can, in every way we can, that this is not a smart approach for our province and its future."

Traditionally, the house breaks on the Thursday of the second full week in June.

The delay of Bill 20 has raised the question of whether the government would impose closure to shorten debate, but NDP house leader Jennifer Howard has said it's not on her "menu of options."

On Monday, the Conservatives introduced a second "hoist" motion -- the first was introduced last week on Bill 20 -- to delay second reading of Bill 33 for six months. That bill would see municipalities under 1,000 population amalgamate. The move is one of several that have included rounds of bell-ringing to call MLAs for recorded votes and the delivery of countless petitions -- they call it ''petitionapalooza"-- that have held up house business.

Pallister would not comment on how far he was prepared to sit into the summer but said he had the support of his caucus.

He also repeated earlier comments that for the imposition of the tax increase to be legal, the NDP must first repeal the referendum requirement as outlined in the Taxpayer Protection Act. The act was brought in by former premier Gary Filmon's Tory government in 1995.

"We can't just have a government jack up taxes willy-nilly as it wishes to," said Pallister, adding his party is still discussing the possibility of legal action against the government.

"A decision hasn't been made and it will be released when we've made that decision," he said.

Once Bill 20 gets to second reading, it will go before a legislative committee where, as of late Monday, 189 Manitobans have already signed up to speak on it. The government must give a week's notice to presenters before the public-comment period begins.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2013 A6

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