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PCs hope budget doesn't offer Manitobans 'big lump of coal'

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Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister conjured up a Christmas metaphor this afternoon to describe Manitobans’ anticipation of Tuesday’s provincial budget.

"I really hope this evening that tomorrow Manitobans do not find another big lump of coal from this government," he told a pre-budget news conference at the legislative building on Monday.

Last year, Manitobans were stuck with the biggest hike in taxes and user fees in a quarter-century, Pallister said. Given that experience, "it would be understandable that Manitobans would be a little leery about what’s coming (on Tuesday)," he said.

Pallister said he is hoping for a balanced provincial budget — although the government has already said it will be unable to achieve goal that until 2016-2017.

The Conservative leader refused to say what programs he would cut to get the province’s books into the black. He said he’ll offer some suggestions Wednesday after he sees what the NDP proposes on Tuesday.

But Pallister said he hoped the government would not rely on more tax hikes to free itself from a large pool of red ink.

"The problem with the province’s inability to get its spending under control...(is) high taxes for Manitobans," he said.

Pallister is also tired of hearing the government blame flooding in Manitoba for its fiscal problems.

"The government raided the rainy day fund that they were fortunate to inherit in good times and had an opportunity to prepare for what Mother Nature would throw at us and failed to do so," he said.

The government has instituted what amounts to a "structural deficit" because of its high-spending ways, the Tory leader said.

"So don’t blame Mother Nature for the nature of the NDP to spend more than they bring in. They were doing it before that flood and... if things don’t change tomorrow they’re going to continue to do it."

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