Progressive Conservative leader center of attacks during TV debate
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2016 6:34PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, April 13, 2016 11:36AM CST
Manitoba’s party leaders went head-to-head Tuesday in a televised debate that saw Tory Leader Brian Pallister taking attacks from all sides.
NDP Leader Greg Selinger, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister and Green Party Leader James Beddome debated topics including the provincial sales tax, health care and job creation.
Leaders were categorically divided on their plans for the PST. Selinger and Bokhari have pledged to keep the tax at 8 per cent, while Pallister promised to the drop the rate to 7 per cent by finding savings in government spending.
“It illustrates that both Ms. Bokhari and Mr. Selinger believe that Manitoba’s money that they work for, that they save is better positioned on the cabinet table of government than it is on the kitchen tables of Manitobans,” Pallister said.
“We believe that there was a promise made, and that promise should be kept,” he added, referencing Selinger’s 2013 decision to hike the PST.
Meanwhile, Selinger took on questions about his party’s controversial decision to hike the tax to 8 per cent in 2013. Selinger said he regretted catching Manitobans off-guard with the increase.
“I take responsibility for that, but we also saw the bill come in for the 2011 flood -- $1.2 billion --and recommendations for flood protection, at least another $1 billion,” he said. “We made a difficult decision.”
Meanwhile, Pallister faced accusations that his party would privatize the province’s health-care system and sell-off crown corporations.
Pallister responded by accusing Selinger of creating a two-tier-health -care system in the province.
“There are more people driving around looking for healthcare, more Manitobans looking for treatment somewhere else,” Pallister said.
In turn, Selinger accused Pallister of dodging privatization questions and putting front-line health care services at risk.
“When you said you’re going to put a private sector committee in charge of reviewing everything with no sacred cows, that gives no confidence to people that services are going to be protected,” Selinger responded.
When pressed about the numerous scandals that have plagued the Manitoba Liberals this election campaign, Bokhari maintained she took a principled stance in the face of controversy.
“If a candidate did not show or embody the values that we believe in as Manitobans or that we believe in as a party, we were not comfortable having that candidate on board,” she said.
Beddome also challenged Pallister, asking if a Tory government would support a guaranteed annual income program proposed by the Greens.
Pallister said he’s willing to work with anyone who has solutions to poverty, but pushed his own party’s plan to raise the base of personal exemption toward the national average.
“The reality is that your plan would increase taxes by about 11 per cent on the middle income earner,” Pallister said. “Your plan has some flaws. I’m ready to work with you.”
Advance polling stations are open until April 16. Election day is April 19.