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Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, meets with Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, right, and Manitoba's Minister of Finance Adrien Sala at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Nov. 8.David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press

The Manitoba government is broadening its plan for a fuel tax holiday after receiving criticism from farm groups, snowmobilers and the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

A bill before the legislature would suspend the 14-cent-a-litre provincial fuel tax for at least six months, starting Jan. 1, to help people with the rising cost of living.

The bill says the tax break is for vehicles used on roadways, although Finance Minister Adrien Sala had said it would not be policed and off-road enthusiasts could enjoy the break as well.

Sala, who said Wednesday that amendments were not necessary, reversed course Friday and said changes will be made to make it clear that off-road vehicles are included.

“We heard from communities and we heard from folks that had some small concerns about that lack of clarity, and really this was just about cleaning up that concern,” Sala said.

The bill is also being amended to extend the tax break to marked gas, which is sold at a discount for use in farm vehicles, Sala added.

The latter move is expected to add roughly $1 million to the tax break already slated to cost the province $163 million – or more if the NDP government extends the break beyond the end of June. The bill gives the provincial cabinet the power to continue the tax break, perhaps at a smaller discount, for an additional six months.

The government’s change of heart came two days after a lengthy legislature committee hearing that dragged on until 11 p.m.

A few people representing snowmobilers, agricultural producers and others criticized the bill, and the Progressive Conservatives kept the committee sitting late into the night as they repeatedly pressed the government to amend the bill.

Sala is hoping to have the bill passed by the legislature before the winter break starts Thursday. The bill was the second introduced by the government since the NDP won the Oct. 3 provincial election.

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