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Pallister’s Hail Mary pass

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Brian Pallister has given up on ending annual government deficits and reducing the PST (from 8% to 7%) by slimming down Manitoba’s notoriously low-performing public sector. The sector, paradoxically, delivers the worst services for about the highest costs. Pallister prefers, NDP-style, to keep pushing up taxes and fees — a pathetic failure for already over-taxed Manitobans.

Lately, he offered a Hobson’s choice to taxpayers – accept either a new health tax or endure reduced services. Neither is acceptable. He should live up to his pre-election pledge to find economies in a bloated public service while improving outcomes.

Pallister’s campaign featured a promise to reverse the 1% PST jump that was foisted on an unsuspecting electorate by an ‘out of gas’ NDP regime. Pallister’s promise came coupled with absolute determination to eliminate the annual deficit (over a decidedly low bar of two terms in office), without increasing or adding new taxes to the litany of taxes and fees already pummelling taxpayers.

Brian Pallister ignores his pre-election promises. He changes the lyrics of an old saying in his sales pitch to taxpayers: when the going gets tough, throw in the towel and raise taxes.

Consider just some of the promises broken:

1. Instead of halting Hydro’s expansion misadventure and holding an independent review of the NDP-driven boondoggle, he left the spending spigots on, full bore.

2. Rather than ending the NDP’s closed shop provisions funnelling government construction contracts to unionized firms (bringing higher costs), he has let the practice continue.

3. Instead of no new taxes without a referendum, Pallister now prepares to reach deeply into our pockets with a crushing carbon tax and a surprise health tax.

By not halting the Hydro expansion immediately after coming into power, he was suckered by Hydro to continue to spend on the projects without a pause, making it impossible to stop the misadventure. As for Pallister’s recent musings about a carbon tax, he looks to book $300 million a year in new annual revenue. Who knows what to expect from a new health levy?

Pallister got into office because of the mess the NDP made of the Province’s finances. His commitment to eliminate the deficit, address the Hydro debacle, and work towards lessening the burden of taxes and fees on taxpayers was expected to be realized by smarter spending and efficiency. We expected effective changes, not penalizing taxpayers more by diminished services and new taxes. His promises were once enough for an electorate crying ‘uncle’ under the weight of the NDP’s union feather-bedding and fiscal incompetence.

Now, instead of pushing more taxes at us, he should be firmly aiming at reducing the levers of pain left by the NDP: income taxes, PST, land transfer taxes, payroll tax, gasoline tax, etc. etc.. He should also bring spending under control by school divisions and the City of Winnipeg. Municipal governments are subjects of the Province, so Pallister should force a repeal of Winnipeg’s new development ‘impact’ tax, stop the City from raiding water bills to hide property tax rises, and remove the shameless traffic fine and photo radar tax grabs.

Pallister is not living up to his promises, so he should step aside. We deserve much better. Another NDP or NDP-lite government could well finish Manitoba.

Graham Lane chairs Manitoba Forward.

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