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Manitoba premier plans no major tax hikes in 2014, running again in 2016

Premier Greg Selinger

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Premier Greg Selinger (BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES )

WINNIPEG - After imposing big tax hikes in 2012 and 2013 and paying a price for it in opinion polls, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is indicating taxpayers will not take another hit in the coming year.

"We have no major tax increases planned for the budget," Selinger said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

"We're still in the early days, the minister of finance will make recommendations, but nobody is looking towards a major tax increase this year as part of the plan for the budget."

The premier's wording appears to leave the door open to smaller tax hikes. The NDP government has regularly raised tobacco taxes on budget day and has raised the fuel tax and many user fees on occasion.

Selinger, who rejected the idea of a provincial sales tax increase during the 2011 election campaign as "ridiculous," has faced heavy criticism for boosting that very tax along with others.

Prompted by a slower-than-expected economic recovery, the government expanded the PST in the 2012 budget to cover new items such as manicures, tattoos and many types of insurance.

The 2013 budget saw the government raise the overall sales tax to eight per cent from seven. It also suspended a section of the balanced budget law that required a referendum before any sales tax increase.

Since then, opinion polls have suggested the NDP has dropped to its lowest level of support since sweeping to power in 1999 and is now well back of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

The government initially said the money was needed for infrastructure projects, front-line services, new schools and other items, but changed its messaging this fall to say the money would go only to core infrastructure such as highways and bridges.

Selinger says his government has worked to try to keep a lid on spending — it's growing by less than three per cent annually lately. He has also saved money by turning the province's property registry over to a private company for $75 million.

Asked whether other government entities such as the liquor corporation, might be put into private hands, Selinger said no.

"No plans to privatize liquor. We have very good people that work in the operations that provide good service to the public and a strong emphasis on social responsibility to make sure that people are protected from some of the dangers of over-consumption of alcohol."

Selinger likely has two years to try to reverse his party's declining fortunes before facing voters again. The next election is expected in the spring of 2016.

He appears to see the task as more of a marathon than a sprint. He and his cabinet ministers have been on the offensive over the sales tax hike by staging full news conferences for announcements about individual highway projects. Each time, they stress the sales tax increase is what has made the projects possible.

Now 62, Selinger shows no sign of wanting to quit. After a decade as finance minister and four years in the premier's chair, Selinger says he has every intention of leading the NDP into the next campaign.

"The plan is to run again. We've reset cabinet. We've listened to Manitobans on what they want our priorities to be. I want to be here to execute on those priorities and to see those things improve."

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Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 4 Commentscomment icon

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Tell people what they want to hear, then stick it to them!

Hhhmm. Seems we have heard that same tune said before.?
Fool Me Once, Shame on You.
Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.

When you are already the highest taxed province for thousands of kilometers, why go any higher, eh?

I wish the Premier would define "major" tax hike. I would bet in his eyes that the PST tax hike would not be considered "major". Bet there are at least a couple hundred million in tax increses next spring...

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