The podium sign said it all this morning at Brian Pallister's first campaign announcement.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/3/2016 (2047 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The podium sign said it all this morning at Brian Pallister's first campaign announcement.

"Lower Taxes," it read. "Better Plan. Better Manitoba."

The Progressive Conservative leader opened up the first official day of the election campaign with a renewed pledge to roll back the provincial sales tax to seven per cent, from eight per cent, in his first term in office.

Manitobans go to the polls on April 19.

While the provincial cabinet was holding its final meeting before the dropping of the writ, Pallister was in Premier Greg Selinger's St. Boniface constituency, where he spoke a few sentences in French and promised the Tories would find savings in government to pay for his planned tax cut.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister kicked off the 2016 election campaign in St. Boniface, arriving with his wife Esther at the office for PC candidate Mamadou Ka.</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister kicked off the 2016 election campaign in St. Boniface, arriving with his wife Esther at the office for PC candidate Mamadou Ka.

A single percentage point of provincial sales tax generates about $300 million a year in income for the government.

Pallister was asked about his ability to find such savings and what he would do if faced, as premier, with large unexpected expenses such as a major flood.

He said his promise was ironclad.

"That’s a commitment I have made and I keep my word," he told reporters and about 20 PC candidates gathered for the leader's first election stop at the campaign office of St. Boniface PC candidate Mamadou Ka. Pallister was also to make campaign stops today in Brandon and Portage la Prairie.

Pallister said there is plenty of waste in a government that's been in power for nearly 17 years. And ways of saving money can be found everywhere, including in health and education. He said he's spoken to frontline staff who have assured him of that. 

"There are no sacred cows here," he said.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister speaks at his election campaign kickoff Wednesday.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister speaks at his election campaign kickoff Wednesday.

Yet, Pallister stressed that he's not looking to cut department spending. All he wants to do is slow down the growth of spending that has occurred under the NDP, growth, he says, that is more than twice the rate of inflation.

Pallister characterized the provincial bureaucracy as "top heavy," said the government relies too much on expensive sole-sourced contracts, and spends too much money on self-promotion. He said the NDP also wasted money rushing major projects, such as the new football field, for political expediency.

A reduction in the PST will help create jobs, he said, and give Manitobans more money to look after their own financial security.

"Manitobans aren’t the NDP’s ATM. Not anymore. Not with a new government. And this new PC team is ready to govern," the Tory leader said.

When pressed, Pallister said he could not say that a government he leads would never raise taxes. He said no party leader could credibly say that. But he said he was the only leader in the election campaign with a plan for lowering the PST.

Asked what he would do to convince Manitobans to trust him and like him, Pallister responded: "I'm not so worried about being liked. I want to be respected... Manitobans will get to know me."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca 

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography