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Handcuffs and tax hikes

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Quiz time.
 
When did Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister say this?
 
"The reason for that is that there is a significant accumulated debt which will be handed to younger people to repay. Younger people, unfortunately, will be saddled with that burden if things do not change in this country, and they must change because those younger people are my daughter and the sons and daughters and grandchildren of the members of this House and of all Manitobans. We have to bear responsibility for those people as much as for the people of today."
 
a) April 16, 2013 Budget Day, when the NDP said it’s hiking the sales tax to eight per cent
 
b) April 23, 2013  Pallister’s press conference on the need for a referendum for the tax increase
 
c) Oct. 16, 1996, during debate on Bill 2, otherwise known as at the time as The Balanced Budget, Debt Repayment and Taxpayer Protection and Consequential Amendments Act
 
If you picked ‘C’ you’re correctomundo.
 
To be honest, I did not find this on my own. One of the NDP’s "192 communicators" helped me.
 
Here’s what else Pallister, then Government Services minister, said back then about Bill 2:
 
"There has been a lot of research done, and the fact is that the balanced budget laws, tax and expenditure legislation are not perfect. They are not perfect. They do not work perfectly, and neither do most things, but they do work. Some work better than others. . .
 
". . .In that respect, this legislation does deal on the spending side very heavily. Granted, there are restrictions in this legislation that (NDP) members have talked about, that they suggest are unreasonable or that would handcuff future legislators. I do not believe that that is true. I believe the legislation can be, by any subsequent Legislature, withdrawn or repealed. So I do not believe that the hands-being-tied argument is one that has any validity at all. . .
 
"I would say, above all else, this is very moral, very spiritual legislation. It makes great sense but reflects an understanding of the need and knowing the essential fact that we must govern as if we were to be here on a long-term basis, perhaps forever."
 
Now, what the one of the 192 NDP communicators wanted me and you to know, is this: That in 1995, Pallister apparently saw no issue with a future government withdrawing or repealing the legislation, legislation that was inspired by him two years earlier through a private member’s resolution.
 
What the one of the 192 wanted out there is that Pallister, even before it became law, believed The Balanced Budget, Debt Repayment and Taxpayer Protection and Consequential Amendments Act was not quite written in stone.
 
The one of 192 also wanted it known is that it was not actually zapped by God into a tablet, but inspired by mere mortals going into an election campaign.
 
That like any law, it could be amended or killed by a future government.
 
Governments, even Conservative governments, do this from time to time. Like the federal long-gun registry.
 
Now, fast forward to what’s happening in the Manitoba legislature today.
 
Pallister and his Tories, and the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, now condemn the Selinger New Democrats for introducing Bill 20, the 11-page bill that would increase the provincial sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent July 1 and exempt the government from the referendum requirement under what’s now called The Balanced Budget, Fiscal Management and Taxpayer Accountability Act.
 
The Tories say the money-hungry, tax-loving, spend-happy NDP are breaking the law.
 
The NDP, through one of its 192 communicators, say whoa, hold on, not so fast.
 
The NDP say they are merely doing what Pallister suggested could be done Oct. 16, 1995.
 
You can read all of what Pallister said in Hansard.
 
Pallister now says that during the 1999 election campaign, the year the NDP booted the Progressive Conservatives out of office, the New Democrats campaigned on a promise not to gut the The Balanced Budget, Fiscal Management and Taxpayer Accountability Act.
 
Instead, Pallister says the NDP instead have sliced and diced and hacked and slashed their way through it to suit their own needs, their last act being the chopping off of the referendum head.
 
"With the absence of the Taxpayer Protection Act what will happen is that government’s hands will be untied and governments will be able to raise taxes as they wish," Pallister said during his April 23 news conference.
 
Premier Greg Selinger, the boss of the one of 192, summed up the situation this way in a conversation last week.
 
"You do have to actually make decisions once and a while," he said. "It can’t just be laying people off and cuts."
 
bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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