Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A tale of two premiers

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is asking voters in that province to read her lips: If she is returned to power following the next election, there will be tax increases.

The Liberal premier says it's the only way to pay for new infrastructure, particularly transit solutions in the Toronto-Hamilton region, which alone could cost $50 billion.

It's a gutsy move by the rookie premier, coming at a time when Ontario residents have suffered through a series of costly scandals that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Ms. Wynne is obviously hoping voters will accept her view that Ontario is broke, and the only responsible course of action is tax increases combined with cost-saving efficiencies. If you want nice things, she is saying, you will have to pay for them,

Fair enough. Voters can decide if they accept her point of view. It's called democracy.

Enter Premier Greg Selinger.

He took a different approach in the 2011 general election, when he promised not to raise taxes.

As we know now, he immediately raised taxes, including eliminating the PST exclusion for a wide range of services and raising fees. This year, of course, he raised the provincial sales tax by one percentage point on the grounds it was necessary to pay for new infrastructure.

The right thing would have been to tell Manitobans he would raise taxes if re-elected, so voters could decide if they liked the idea. Doing the right thing, however, has never been a popular option for most politicians, who believe it is naive and self-defeating.

Mr. Selinger should have used his state of the province speech on Thursday to apologize for deceiving Manitobans, but he instead droned on about the new roads the province is building.

He felt no need to explain why he had broken his promise and the law that prohibited tax increases without a referendum.

Premier Wynne has manned up and shown her hand to voters.

Win, lose or draw, it's a refreshing change from the deceit that is too common in politics today, and well-known in Manitoba's NDP.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 A16

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