Budget season is just about over on the prairies, and what a strange turn it took in Manitoba. It was George Bush Senior who is remembered for the phrase “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
Nowadays, politicians everywhere say that, and then routinely turn around and do the opposite. A case in point is Greg Selinger, the NDP Premier of Manitoba. 18 months ago, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the polls by promising not to raise taxes. Last year his government jacked up a variety of user charges, and this year they’re raising the provincial sales tax from 7% to 8%.
It will cost the average Manitoban about twenty dollars a month, and a lot more than that if they’re making a major purchase like a new home. Under Manitoba’s Balanced Budget legislation, such a tax increase is not allowed unless you put it to the voters in a referendum. Selinger and company are simply passing another law that says a referendum won’t be needed.
It’s yet another blow for democracy, and the NDP regime which is almost 14 years old, may be getting close to the tipping point. Their time may be coming, but the next election doesn’t happen in Manitoba until the fall of 2015.
In truth, Selinger and his Finance minister, Stan Struthers, didn’t have a lot of options. Despite the tax increase they’re still facing a deficit of more than half a billion dollars. They’re still paying bills for a major flood two years ago, and this year’s flood is still to come.
The anger that followed the release of the budget in Winnipeg was nasty, and it’s not about to go away. Next time a politician promises he won’t raise taxes, don’t believe him. There’s a good chance it’s a promise that will quickly self destruct.
I’m Roger Currie