PST hike debate heats up at Manitoba legislature
The heated debate over the Manitoba government's increase to the provincial sales tax is boiling over, with MLAs accusing each other of name-calling.
The PST went up from seven to eight per cent on July 1, even though the legislation needed for the increase to happen has not yet been passed into law.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives have vigorously opposed the tax hike, which the governing New Democrats say will raise money for infrastructure.
To show that opposition, the Tories have been employing procedural tactics to extend the legislative session well into the summer holidays.
On Thursday, NDP House Leader Jennifer Howard said she heard Tory Leader Brian Pallister muttered the term "retard" during a vote on a PC private member's bill on combating cyberbullying.
Howard, who is also the minister responsible for people with disabilities, said it wasn't clear who Pallister was talking about, but she heard him make other remarks as the names of NDP MLAs were called out during the vote.
"At that point, like, I have to say something. I'm responsible for people with disabilities in this government," Howard said.
"I'm in a workplace. I can't let somebody that I work with use that kind of language."
Howard said there are many other effective ways to heckle without insulting large groups of people.
"There is no context to use that word. It is offensive to people with intellectual disabilities, it's offensive to their families and, in my mind, it shows a very outdated attitude," she said.
Distracting from real issues, says Pallister
However, the proceedings were not recorded and Pallister denied Howard's allegation.
"The house leader is going to make whatever assertions she wants," he said.
"This is a continuation of the NDP strategy to distract from the real issues that we should be talking about here."
Howard also accused the Tories of pushing the government close to running out of money as the continuing fight over the PST increase drags on.
But Pallister said if the NDP government is in fiscal trouble, it's its own fault.
"You'll have to get clarity from the NDP on how a fiscal cliff could emerge under their management. I seriously doubt that such a cliff even exists," he said.
"I think it's a scare tactic, similar to the scare tactics they use with union members around the province — nurses, teachers and people like that, trying to frighten them."
Pallister repeated his argument that the NDP is asking Manitobans to solve its spending problem by paying more in taxes.
Earlier this month, an NDP cabinet minister apologized for calling opponents of the PST increase "howling coyotes."
Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux had said people who came to public hearings on the tax bill and expressed support for the increase were not heard "over the din of the howling coyotes that we heard all night."
Lemieux said he was referring to opposition MLAs but admitted the transcript had suggested he was referring to government critics.