POLITICS

Bills, including tax hike, voted on as Manitoba legislature sitting winds down

12/03/2013 04:44 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - Dozens of bills are being voted on as the fall sitting of the Manitoba legislature draws to a close this week.

Politicians have given final approval to a law that will lead to new rules to ensure buildings and employers accommodate the disabled.

They have also passed a law to close a loophole that has allowed some employers to pay disabled people less than the minimum wage.

The most contentious bill — one that formalizes a rise in the provincial sales tax — is to come to a final vote on Thursday.

The government has said the higher tax is needed to pay for infrastructure projects such as highways and bridges.

Opposition house leader Kelvin Goertzen says the tax hike is not needed, but his party has agreed to stop stalling the bill and let it come to a final vote.

"I think that as an opposition, we have done our job," the Progressive Conservative house leader said, referring to stalling tactics that prevented the tax-hike from being passed in June.

The Tory tactics forced the legislature to sit through the summer.

"Ultimately, (the New Democrats) have a majority government, so if they decide to pass this bill, then it will pass."

Also up for a final vote this week is an omnibus budget bill that creates more loopholes in the province's balanced budget law.

The changes will allow the government to run deficits when transfer payments are cut sharply, or when Crown Corporation profits plunge.

The omnibus bill also sets up a revamped public subsidy for political parties, based in part on how many votes they received in the two most recent elections.

The Tories have promised not to accept the money, while the NDP have said the subsidy is important to prevent big-money donors from dominating politics.

A previous, more lucrative subsidy, was rejected by both the NDP and Tories.

Other bills set to go to a final vote this week include:

— Higher fines for motorists who speed in construction zones.

— Loosened regulations on charter bus services, to allow for more competition.

— New privacy rules to prevent health care workers from snooping on patient files.

The legislature is expected to resume March 6.