A new political party focusing on extensive tax cuts is aiming to be in place for the April 19 Manitoba election.
The Manitoba Party's platform includes a promise to cut the provincial sales tax to five per cent from eight. The party also says it would institute a flat income tax of 10 per cent to replace current progressive tax brackets that top out at 17.4 per cent.
The party also says it would scrap the province's business payroll tax, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
The aim, the party's president says, would be to leave taxpayers and businesses with more money to boost the economy and create jobs.
"I think everybody knows that taxation is a fine, a penalty, a deterrent," Gary Marshall said Thursday.
"If you alleviate that punishment ... people will be far more inclined to produce, to be productive, to work harder."
Marshall said just look west for proof of that.
"This is copying Saskatchewan. The NDP in 2006 instituted very big tax cuts which shocked everybody and that place has been booming ever since. Yes, they had some help with the oil revenues. But it's their tax policies that have kept that province head and shoulders above everybody else."
Marshall, a dialysis technologist with an interest in government economics, believes his group offers voters a right-leaning alternative to the province's three main parties. It has started filing paperwork with Elections Manitoba, including the 2,500 signatures required to form an official party.
Marshall said he's not worried about splitting the vote on the right.
"They failed on that four times now. Sixteen years they haven't adopted any conservative policies. So if they're chasing NDP policies that's fine. We'll open it up and we'll offer tax cuts," he said.
"We don't think the people of this province are being served very well. In the last election in this province 42 per cent of people did not vote. … So we think the current three parties, that they're all kind of congregated on the left side of the spectrum, all trying to outdo the NDP, are missing out on a large market here in Manitoba."
The party is lining up candidates and has an interim leader in Taz Stuart, who used to head the City of Winnipeg's mosquito-fighting program. Stuart finished second in a run for a seat on city council in 2014.
Stuart plans to run in the Fort Whyte constituency against Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, Marshall said.
Other prospective candidates include former Liberals Joe Chan and Bob Axworthy. Chan has run unsuccessfully at the provincial and municipal level. He stirred up controversy in the last Winnipeg municipal election when he compared his main opponent to the devil.
Axworthy finished a distant third in a 2013 run for the Manitoba Liberal leadership and later quit the party.
Also planning to run is Kim Edwards, a longtime critic of the province's child-welfare system, who staged a hunger protest on the grounds of the legislature in 2013.
Chan said Stuart is the right person to lead the party until a permanent leader is chosen.
"We need [someone who's] young, handsome, energetic and [he] looks so honest, OK? I think he's an honest guy," he said.
The Manitoba Party is hoping to gain official status with Elections Manitoba by the end of the month and field candidates in at least half of the province's 57 constituencies.
Asked for their reaction to the arrival of a new contender, both the Progressive Conservatives and Manitoba Liberals declined to comment.
But in a statement, the NDP said, "It's always a good day for democracy when Manitobans become engaged in the electoral process. Between Rana Bokhari's tax giveaways to the biggest corporations in Manitoba, and Brian Pallister's plan for risky cuts, we didn't think there was any room on the conservative side of the political spectrum for another party, but it appears there is. We look forward to seeing Manitoba Party candidates on the campaign trail."