Winnipeg business community 'devastated' premier won't rule out tax hike
Greg Selinger takes jabs at opposition parties while talking to crowd of Winnipeg business leaders
Winnipeg's business leaders were looking for a promise from NDP Premier Greg Selinger Tuesday in his annual state of the province address.
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Dave Angus said they wanted Selinger's word he wouldn't raise the PST again.
They didn't get it.
"That's devastating to the business community, not to have that certainty because there's one thing that businesses gravitate to and it goes to where they want to do business, and that is certainty. And so what this provincial government has to do which it has not done a good enough job at is identify the fiscal framework to which they are going to be driving towards."
"We would have like to have heard how [the NDP government is] going to handle the fiscal challenges going forward, because that's what's going to put pressure on taxes going forward as well," Angus said.
Selinger conceded there is still a demand for him to justify the need for the controversial tax hike to the provincial sales tax.
During his speech, Selinger outlined a list of accomplishments and promises, including future announcements on True North Square and additional Manitoba Hydro contracts while taking jabs at the opposition.
"When the opposition says that they will cancel exports as a business plan for Manitoba Hydro, that would be a tremendous mistake for two reasons: less jobs in Manitoba and more greenhouse gas emissions in other jurisdictions," he said.
He told the audience that Manitoba was in good shape, pointing specifically to praise from Canadian Business magazine, which recently named Winnipeg the most business-friendly city in Canada, and a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that said small business confidence in Manitoba was at an all-time high.
"That success is not something you can rest your laurels on. We have to be able to take it to the next level," he said.
Selinger was on the defensive last year during his speech, which fell right in the middle of the revolt against his leadership by five of his cabinet ministers.
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Selinger had to spend part of that speech addressing the rebellion, assuring business leaders his government was under control and stable.
This year, he alluded to the upcoming provincial election, saying the best way to continue with the progress Manitoba has made is to stick with his government.
"Without grinding the point too hard, I say to you, those things are at risk unless we keep the momentum going in the right direction," he said. "I do not see that in the plans of my competitors in this coming election."
The NDP will try to win an unprecedented fifth term in the provincial election April 19.
Selinger pointed to ongoing reconciliation efforts with First Nations and welcoming and settlement work with refugees and newcomers as examples of how to keep moving Manitoba forward.
He also indicated tourism would remain a top priority for the province.
With files from Chris Glover