Campaign rebates saved, PST cut coming as Manitoba government, NDP reach compromise on budget bill
Premier Brian Pallister had hinted at early trip to the polls if NDP tried to stall cut
A compromise at the 11th hour has saved the government budget bill that will cut the provincial sales tax in Manitoba to seven per cent.
The NDP reached a deal with the Progressive Conservatives on Wednesday to allow the bill to go through, while keeping a rebate on campaign expenses that the Manitoba government wanted to eliminate.
The official Opposition party has the option to delay up to four pieces of legislation until the next legislative session. The NDP threatened to hold up the budget bill because of the proposal to scrap the rebate — an idea the NDP slammed as "undemocratic."
The amended bill now includes a 25 per cent rebate for parties and candidates who get at least five per cent of the vote in an election.
Under previous legislation, 50 per cent of campaign expenses could be returned, but only if the candidate or party garnered at least 10 per cent of the vote.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew previously argued cutting the rebate would discourage lower-income people from running for office over fears they'd carry significant debt.
He thinks the government accepted the amendment because it realized more Manitobans should run for office, not fewer.
"We took it seriously that [cutting the rebate] would prevent some people from being able to put their name on the ballot. We got a win," said Kinew, adding the deal came together behind closed doors at the "11th hour."
'I don't get my own way all the time': Pallister
Premier Brian Pallister agreed to the compromise to ensure his PST cut is backed by legislation.
Delaying the budget bill could have also delayed the PST cut in the event of an early election call, since all legislation that hasn't passed is cancelled once the writ is dropped.
"In about a month … my wife and I will be celebrating our 30th anniversary. I don't get my own way all the time," the premier said.
"Sometimes if you want to build a relationship — and we try to work with the opposition parties — sometimes you have to give a little bit."
The bill is now slated to pass by June 3.
The NDP will hold over four bills until the next legislative session. Those include the Labour Relations Amendment Act and the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Cannabis Social Responsibility Fee).
On Tuesday, the NDP voted in favour of the budget bill during its second reading, allowing it to go to the committee stage and giving them a chance to argue the public subsidy for campaign expenses was worth saving.
Pallister previously suggested he might go to the polls early if the NDP delayed the budget bill — even though he earlier said the cut would be made even if the bill was delayed.
He acknowledged on Tuesday the PST cut would have taken effect without the bill being granted royal assent, but it wouldn't be permanent without legislation.
The bill's passage is expected to hurt the NDP and Liberals, which have relied heavily on the campaign expense subsidy.
The Tories are much better off financially without the subsidy than the opposition parties. The party received over $2 million in donations last year — more than triple the amount raised by the NDP.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the process of passing the budget bill has been a "game of chicken" between the government and NDP.
The Tories want the legislation in place in case they call an election far earlier than the scheduled date of Oct. 6, 2020, he said.
"[Pallister has] been trying to come up with a good reason, a good phony reason, to call an election and to put his opponents offside," he said, "and the PST isn't going to be it."
Lamont speculated the election would take place in July.