By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding said stalling tactics by the opposition in the legislature could threaten a provincial sales tax cut set to take effect July 1.
Fielding’s comments appear to contradict assurances last month by Premier Brian Pallister, and led to accusations from the opposition that the Tory government is looking for an excuse to call a snap election.
“Our … concern is that the NDP are not going to allow the (tax cut) to happen,” Fielding said Tuesday.
“We think that the stalling techniques that the opposition are doing in the house is another attempt by them to make sure that Manitobans pay higher taxes. We think that’s wrong. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that Manitobans have a break.”
The Progressive Conservatives announced in last month’s budget that the sales tax would be cut to seven per cent from eight as of Canada Day.
Pallister said at the time that even if the opposition parties delayed passage of the bill for months, the cut would take effect as scheduled. It’s common for governments to change taxes on items ranging from cigarettes to fuel immediately on budget day, even though the budget bill is not passed into law for weeks or months.
Fielding said the government wants to put a stop to the opposition delays to ensure the tax cut proceeds.
“Our concern is all the stalling techniques that have been happening and continue to happen in the house. So we want to make sure that stalling tactics don’t happen,” he said.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government’s change of heart is yet another signal of a possible election. Pallister has been hinting for months that he may call a vote well before the scheduled date of Oct. 6, 2020.
“I do think they’re trying to lay the ground work for an early election,” Kinew said.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont agreed.
“It’s all a rationale for calling an election on a phoney premise,” he said.
“They’re pretending that they don’t have a majority that can pass (the tax cut) easily, which they can.”
The New Democrats have held up proceedings in the legislature on occasion this spring. In recent days, they have been slowly reading out petitions from constituents to eat up the clock.
The opposition parties also have the option of delaying five bills of their choosing every spring, and holding them off until the fall. The NDP have yet to announce whether they will choose the budget bill as one of the five.