Ashton pledges to hold referendum on whether to scrap or keep PST increase if chosen NDP leader
Alesia Fieldberg, CTV Winnipeg
Published Tuesday, December 23, 2014 12:38PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 23, 2014 7:43PM CST
Steve Ashton said that if he's elected NDP leader, he will hold a referendum to let Manitobans decide whether to keep, revise or scrap the PST hike.
He says his campaign is based on four fundamentals, including reconnecting the government with Manitobans, rebuilding the NDP, respecting social democratic principles and refocusing government policies and programs on serving Manitobans throughout the province.
Ashton signed the papers Dec. 23, officially launching his bid for the NDP leadership.
On Tuesday, Ashton said sometimes governments make mistakes.
"I believe it was the right thing to do to bring up the PST,” he said. "But it's also the right thing to do to ask Manitobans to have their say."
He says he’s prepared to give Manitobans their say. When asked if he’s prepared to handle their decision he said, “If you put it to a vote, you have to be prepared to abide by the results. Quite frankly, if we do nothing and it becomes an issue in the next election, it could be a lost then as well.”
Theresa Oswald, who is also seeking the NDP leadership, said she would not hold a referendum on the PST.
“Many Manitobans were upset about Greg Selinger’s broken promise and the decision to raise the PST without warning or consultation, especially low-income and working families who have felt the PST increase the most. But a referendum after the fact is not the kind of public consultation I’m proposing,” said Oswald.
“In siding with Brian Pallister now on the question of a referendum, Steve Ashton is creating needless uncertainty for Manitobans, and he needs to explain where he would find the funding for infrastructure renewal, health care and education - the things that matter most to people," said Oswald.
When asked how the results of a referendum could affect the province’s bottom line, Ashton said about $300 million are at stake.
As for the cost of holding a referendum, Ashton says it would be much less than the cost of a provincial election, which he says is about $12 million.
A spokesperson for Greg Selinger said, “The premier stands behind his and his MLAs' decision.”
Selinger hasn't formally entered the leadership race himself, but has until the first week of January to sign the papers.