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Temporary halt on fuel tax would help people, Manitoba NDP says

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats promised Monday to temporarily suspend the province’s fuel tax if they win the election slated for Oct. 3.

The move, which would save motorists 14 cents a litre, would remain in place until inflation eases — a time frame estimated somewhere between six and 12 months, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

“I don’t know about you, but (in) our household, the workhorse that we use to drive the kids to their activities, it’s a pickup truck and it takes a hundred litres to fill up,” Kinew said.

“That means that this announcement, for a family using a vehicle like (that), this will save you 14 bucks every time you gas up.”

Fuel taxes bring in roughly $340 million a year to provincial coffers. Kinew, who has been making a series of commitments before the election campaign’s official kickoff next month, has not laid out how he would pay for his promises.

An NDP government would also grant new powers to the province’s energy regulator, the Public Utilities Board, to investigate and regulate retail gasoline prices, Kinew said. Some provinces, including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, have been regulating gas prices for more than 15 years.

Cliff Cullen, the finance minister for the Progressive Conservative government, said the province had earlier looked at the idea of suspending the fuel tax, as Alberta did in January. But he said there are no guarantees the tax relief would be passed on to consumers, and the Tories opted instead for “affordability” cheques mailed directly to homes in recent months to offset high energy and food costs.

“We wanted to get money directly to Manitobans,” Cullen said.

And with Manitoba running annual deficits almost every year since 2008, Cullen said the NDP might have to raise another tax to make up for the lost fuel revenue.

The Liberals accused the NDP of being irresponsible, both fiscally and environmentally.

“There is no world in which this makes sense. The NDP is borrowing … to subsidize gas which is used once and literally goes up in smoke,” Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said in a written statement.

Kinew said the tax cut would not drive up emissions. Because it is a temporary measure aimed at offsetting higher living costs, people will not drive more or buy larger vehicles, he said.

“People are going to be using the same car or truck that they’re using today. They are going to be living the same distance from work that they do today.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2023.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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