LOCAL Government Minister Ron Lemieux insists his "howling coyotes" comment in the legislature last week was aimed at opposition members barking at him during question period, but his words say otherwise. Mr. Lemieux should unreservedly apologize for the apparent swipe he took at ordinary Manitobans who protested the government's PST hike at recent legislative hearings.
The NDP administration deservedly has been taking heat for the decision to raise the retail sales tax to eight per cent from seven. What Mr. Lemieux, however, said he heard at the hearings on Wednesday was support for the additional revenue for infrastructure spending. And that's what he told the legislature Thursday, heralding the leadership of Premier Greg Selinger: "The leadership to take a PST to apply to infrastructure, to apply to critical infrastructure that Manitobans need, was really heard over the din of the howling coyotes that we heard all night."
The minister insisted that his slings and arrows were pointed at opposition members -- question period on Thursday was loud and ornery -- but in context, that excuse taxes belief.
There is valid reason for the public to protest the PST increase: It was levied by a government that promised not to raise taxes; that trampled balanced budget legislation to hike the tax without a referendum; and co-opted a long-standing request by numerous groups to see one point of PST go toward fixing municipal priorities -- roads and sewers and bridges.
Rather than respecting the legitimate beef, Mr. Lemieux rubs salt in the wounds of Manitobans who took time and trouble from their day to engage in the political process Wednesday night. Taxpayers deserve better than to be dismissed as baying brats in their Legislative Building. Step up, Mr. Lemieux. Apologize.