Happy Canada Day, Manitoba. You’re taxes just went up

Matthew Coutts
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When Manitoba's government announced its intentions to increase the provincial sales tax, they probably could have considered the timing a little more carefully.

Manitoba's PST will increase from 7 per cent to 8 per cent on Monday, July 1.

Canada Day.

Happy damn Canada Day.

The timing wasn't lost on the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), whose Manitoba spokesperson sent out this amusing note about his media availability to discuss the increase:

CTF Prairie Director Colin Craig will be available for media interviews on July 1 as the PST goes up to 8% and begins making little kids cry as the cost of their ice cream cones on Canada Day goes up.

Craig told Yahoo! Canada News he wanted reporters to know he would be hard at work, despite the day being a holiday. He certainly chose an attention-grabbing way to do it.

[ Related: Critics of Manitoba PST increase flock to public hearing ]

CTF's opposition to the tax increase is well documented. The group has led the call for Manitoba's NDP government to reverse its plan to raise the tax — something Premier Greg Selinger promised not to do during his 2011 election campaign.

"A higher sales tax will make it harder for Manitoba families, many of whom are already finding it difficult to make ends meet, put their kids in sports and save for retirement," reads a letter signed by the CTF and several other groups. "Keep in mind this is on top of many other government fees and taxes that are already rising faster than peoples’ pay cheques."

[ More Brew: Alexandre Duplessis, interim mayor of Laval, resigns ]

CBC News reports that critics of the tax increase have been flocking to public hearings to express their frustration. One woman said her family is considering a move to Saskatchewan, where the PST is only five per cent.

Tax increases are rarely popular, which is perhaps why polls show NDP support dipping in the province. The latest Probe Research poll suggests 46 per cent of Manitobans support the rival Conservatives, while 23 per cent would vote NDP.

PC Leader Brian Pallister suggested on Friday that anyone making any Canada Day purchases, or doing any other shopping once the tax increase goes into effect, hold onto their receipts.

Pallister says the government is asking business owners to collect the extra taxes before the bill mandating the increase has actually passed.

"It could be days, weeks or even months before Bill 20 passes, and it’s possible it never will," a statement reads.

"In the meantime, it might be wise to hold onto your receipts, because if Bill 20 never passes you could be eligible for a refund. It would be a shame not to be able to collect it."