Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Immunity for NDP, enforcement for others

  • Print

BRANDON -- With so much public attention focused on Bill 20 (the Selinger government's legislation to increase the PST and override the referendum law), Bill 33 (which forces the amalgamation of municipalities) and Bill 18 (the anti-bullying legislation), it is not surprising the public is largely unaware of much of the other legislation introduced by our NDP government during the current session.

There are bills that amend the Endangered Species Act, replace the Public Trustee Act, privatize property registration and allow hospitals to grant admitting privileges to nurse practitioners and midwives.

Then there's Bill 38, the Provincial Offences Act and Municipal By-Law Enforcement Act, which completely replaces the Summary Convictions Act.

Sec. 3 of that proposed law says "a person who contravenes an enactment by doing an act that it forbids... commits an offence against the enactment," while Sec. 4 says "unless otherwise specifically provided under an Act, a person who is convicted of an offence is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000."

Think about that for a moment. The Selinger government is proposing a law that restates that Manitobans are liable to prosecution and huge fines for violating provincial laws when, at this very moment, the government is violating two provincial laws by raising the PST rate without first holding a province-wide referendum. They are either blind to the irony or indifferent to the hypocrisy.

Although Team Selinger is unconcerned about the prospect of breaking the law -- it intends to grant itself retroactive immunity through the passage of Bill 20 -- it should concern the thousands of Manitoba merchants, who are not protected by that legislation.

Sec. 2(1) of the Retail Sales Tax Act currently sets the sales-tax rate at seven per cent, while Sec. 9(2) requires retailers to collect that tax percentage from consumers and remit it to the province. Until Bill 20 is passed, retailers have no legal authority to collect the eight per cent sales tax they are now collecting from their customers.

At the Bill 20 public hearings last week, accountant Julie Bubnick told MLAs the government was forcing her to break the law by ordering her to collect the eight per cent PST even though Bill 20 has not been passed.

"I am angry, I am insulted and I am upset," she told MLAs. "I am a tax collector for what I consider to be an illegal tax."

Bubnick's concerns are echoed by many merchants.

A prominent Brandon retailer told me: "This is a real cluster (expletive), as far as I'm concerned.

"It doesn't seem right or legal."

The Selinger government says concerns about the legality of the PST increase are overblown. It argues that it is common practice throughout Canada for governments, federal and provincial, to impose taxation changes weeks or even months before the enabling legislation is passed into law.

While the argument is technically correct, it ignores two key facts. First, a Manitoba law specifically prohibits a PST increase without a referendum, and that law is currently in force. Even worse, it is currently illegal to violate a provincial law and it will still be illegal after the passage of Bill 38.

Selinger has apparently learned nothing from the drubbing his government received in its litigation against the Manitoba Jockey Club a few weeks ago, when Mr. Justice Dewar wrote: "Government ministers generally do not impose taxes or spend money unless they are authorized to do so... (T)he minister must act in accordance with the law as it now stands."

We live in a nation and province founded on the rule of law, and the fundamental principle is that no citizen is above the law. Of equal importance is society's expectation that those who enact and enforce the laws must comply with them.

A government that is indifferent to that expectation -- that tells citizens to "do as we say, not as we do" -- forfeits its moral authority to govern. Indeed, how can the Selinger government credibly demand its citizens comply with laws when it refuses to do the same?

 

Deveryn Ross is a political commentator living in Brandon.

deverynrossletters@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2013 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jaws of life used to free two people after two-car collision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.
  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will higher pork prices change your grocery-shopping habits?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google