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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

PC vs NDP on PST = $$$

Win or lose, tax-hike court challenge should reap rewards for Tories

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister speaks to a large scrum of media at the Law Courts in Winnipeg Wednesday morning prior to the PST court case. (Photo courtesy Canadian Taxpayers Federation)

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Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister speaks to a large scrum of media at the Law Courts in Winnipeg Wednesday morning prior to the PST court case. (Photo courtesy Canadian Taxpayers Federation)

You know what doesn’t come cheap?

Publicity.

Especially for a political party looking past its already galvanized base (its usual donors) to appeal to voters who feel they are already taxed enough (and are potential PC donors).

Especially for the Progressive Conservative party — already hailed as the slayer of taxes — hauling the spendthrift NDP before a judge to ’splain the method to its tax-hike madness when it raised the PST one percentage point to eight per cent last year.

Looking at images from outside the Law Courts complex in Winnipeg — a place where I toiled for some time years ago as a beat reporter for the Winnipeg Sun — all I see is former Brandon University Bobcats basketball player and now Tory boss Brian Pallister towering over a media scrum large for even capital city standards.

In the weeks and months leading up to the court date, the Tories — already riding high in the polls over the governing New Democrats — have received so much more media time and space than they usually would expect.

I dare to say that even if the PCs lose the court challenge, the fact that they tried will earn them much respect with Manitobans.

Unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Dipper, who can’t admire someone who is fighting to keep more money in your pockets. Sure, the NDP is quick to argue that the extra "one penny on a dollar" is being used exclusively for drastically needed infrastructure projects — such as the ongoing work on Highway 1A, or Victoria Avenue in Brandon — but why are the government books in such shoddy shape in the first place?

Yup, the NDP’s hand on the public purse since 1999. Tax and spend. Tax and spend. Can you say you are personally better off after a decade and a half of the socialist show on Broadway? I can’t.

But then I was tossed from my job as a press secretary to Tory Premier Gary Filmon’s cabinet when the NDP grabbed power in 1999. I had served under such upstanding ministers as Vic Toews, Jim McCrae and Harold Gilleshammer. Not to mention Filmon, arguably the province’s best and brightest first minister.

Oh those were such fine times ...

But I digress.

As reported this week by our sister media outlet, the Winnipeg Free Press, Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Kenneth Hanssen has reserved his decision in the Progressive Conservatives’ legal challenge of the NDP’s hike to the provincial sales tax.

Hanssen did not say when he would make his decision, which is quite normal in legal proceedings.

As I’ve compiled from a number of reports, Hanssen has to decide whether the NDP violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it hiked the PST without having a referendum as outlined in the 1995 Taxpayer Protection Act. Conversely, it’s argued the act, when brought in by the Filmon Tories, needlessly bound the hands of a future government, one with a different political philosophy and one facing different economic times.

The NDP suspended the referendum requirement at the same time as it introduced the tax increase.

"All the government says is, ‘Because we can,’" Robert Tapper, who is representing the Progressive Conservative party, told Justice Hanssen. "Like the schoolyard bully, it took its football home. You have to wonder what they were thinking?"

Lawyer Jonathan Kroft, acting for the NDP, said a right to a referendum is not required or protected under the Charter of Rights.

"There is no constitutional right to a referendum," Kroft is reported as saying by The Canadian Press. "If you can never grant a referendum, except if you do it forever, you can never have a referendum."

Chew on that for a minute with your cereal this morning. Pallister has said he would repeal the tax increase within the first term if the Tories were to win the next provincial election, expected by most to be in April 2016.

Pallister has also reportedly said that if the Tories lose the case, they will appeal.

Thereby guaranteeing more free media exposure. Although the Tories have to be cognizant of public opinion on this one and need to be ready to fold their hand in what is a tricky game of political poker.

The legal arguments were broadcast under a court pilot project.

And I can say is I’ve now found something more boring to live stream than question period in the legislature — civil court.

But then most people think I’m a bit off my rocker for watching QP whenever I can.

I just do it for the kicks.

The NDP getting kicked around by the Tories.

Yup. Still a tad partisan. Gotta love the Blue Kool-Aid.

•••

Staying with Team Tory for a few more paragraphs ...

Former Sun reporter Keith Borkowsky, who left here to work for the Tories’ communications team in 2012, has now left the back rooms of the Manitoba legislature.

The PC caucus has hired Connie Tamoto as a communications officer. I know Connie from her first days in journalism at the Winnipeg Sun. She went on to work at Global TV and later in corporate communications.

So it would seem the Tories’ ability to attract high-quality staff parallels their rise in the polls and the very real likelihood they could form government after the next election.

•••

Another former Tory spinner is one Melissa Ridgen.

Yes, I write about her from time to time in this space as she’s a close personal friend and also a former city editor at the Brandon Sun. And she has plenty of family in the Wheat City (some of whom read my column. Hello there!).

Well, the senior researcher/writer with APTN’s current affairs unit is one of three finalists for investigative reporting at the 2014 World Indigenous Journalism Awards.

She’s up against finalists from New Zealand and Ireland.

It’s for an investigative piece Melissa did on some First Nations residents who remained displaced years after being intentionally flooded out by the province after the 2011 flood. "Disastrous Relief" can be found on the APTN website.

The winners will be announced at the WIJA awards gala dinner during the World Indigenous Television and Broadcasting Conference 2014, KANATA 2014, on June 19 in Winnipeg.

Good luck, Ridgey!

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 7, 2014

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Publicity.

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Publicity.

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