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Manitoba government tries to clarify tax-cut bill as Tories call for permanent relief

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The NDP government worked to clarify its plans for a temporary suspension of the provincial fuel tax Wednesday while the Opposition Progressive Conservatives called for the tax to be permanently eliminated.

Finance Minister Adrien Sala said his bill, now before the legislature, is aimed at providing temporary relief for people facing inflation. But questions remained about exemptions from the proposed savings.

"This is a bill that's intended to bring savings for all Manitobans," Sala told reporters.

If passed into law, the bill would suspend the 14-cent-per-litre fuel tax on Jan. 1, for at least six months, from farm trucks, firefighting equipment and vehicles used on roadways. It would not apply to discounted marked fuel used in agriculture equipment or propane used in some vehicles and other equipment.

The Tories have said the bill is confusing because its reference to roadway vehicles seems to indicate that fuel used in snowmobiles, boats and all-terrain vehicles would not get the discount.

Sala, who already had to clarify other details of the bill earlier in the week, said no one will crack down on off-road enthusiasts for using the fuel discount, as long as they fill up at a gas station.

"We will not be policing folks at the pump. All Manitobans, when they come to those gas stations … will see those savings," Sala said.

Tory finance critic Obby Khan said the bill does not help all Manitobans. He called for the fuel tax, which brings in more than $300 million a year for the government, to be axed altogether.

"Give Manitobans the relief that they're calling for -- that six months is not enough -- and add in all the fuels," Khan said.

Sala said the government's planned temporary tax holiday is a balance between providing help against inflation and protecting the province's finances. He also fired back at the Tories, saying they never cut the tax during their seven years in office.

The tax bill was scheduled to go to public hearings before a legislature committee Wednesday night. Critics, including some environmentalists and anti-poverty groups, have criticized the bill. They have said it benefits people with gas-guzzling vehicles, and does not help people who ride transit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 29, 2023.

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