The Manitoba New Democrats are urging Manitobans not to trust the Progressive Conservative government's new budget. Opposition leader Wab Kinew says after years of tight fiscal restraint, the Tories are now promising a lot of money because an October election is getting closer. The budget boosts spending on health-care and social services, and cuts personal income and corporate payroll taxes. However, some of these tax changes won't take effect until after the election.
In a media release, Dougald Lamont and the Manitoba Liberals say the PCs are trying to buy back their trust from Manitobans with a big-promise budget that will not make up for their seven years of cuts and freezes to health care, education, municipalities, and people in need.
"The PCs seem to think they can foul up as badly as they want, and it doesn't matter because they'll just buy their way out of trouble," said Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont. "Even where the budget makes big promises, how can you trust the PCs to fix health, education or infrastructure when they just spent seven years trashing these sectors?"
Lamont added that in every budget since 2016, the PCs boast about their spending promises, which never happen because the public announcement is matched by an internal directive to departments, Regional Health Authorities and Shared Health to keep cutting.
Manitoba Liberals say there are a series of issues unaddressed in this rushed budget, which show the PCs are still out of touch with the needs of Manitobans.
There is no mention of Reconciliation, except one mention of "economic reconciliation," and no mention of returning $338-million that PC and NDP governments illegally took from First Nations children in Manitoba's CFS agencies. The worst discrimination against Indigenous people in Canada is often in provincial systems: health care, education, justice, and CFS. There was no mention of any of these.
Borrowing for billionaires: While running a deficit of $363-million, the PCs are pursuing fiscally reckless and unfunded tax cuts. For property tax rebates, the PCs are borrowing $453-million at ever-rising interest rates, with the largest cheques going to the people with the highest incomes and the most property - including billionaires.
The Government's own documents have warned that Manitoba is too reliant on federal transfers, and that without enough own-source revenue, they are at risk in the event of a downturn - or a change in government at the Federal level.
Manitoba Liberals pointed to a series of issues and gaps in today's budget:
- Blaming people who are homeless, living in poverty or with addictions for crime, when they are more likely to be victims of crime.
- On Seniors; There was no mention of increasing number of long-term care beds, and no mention of Manitoba's crumbling homecare system, or of palliative care.
- On Health Care; While there is a plan to train and attract nurses and doctors, there is no plan to keep them in Manitoba. Funding for physician retention has been frozen and allied health care professionals still have no contract.
- On Education; The PCs have padded the budget by recycling old announcements of schools - which don't actually provide education.
"When it comes to affordable and accessible childcare, the PCs haven't created the necessary spots needed to keep up with demand. We have a long way to go to ensure people have access without the extremely long wait lists were currently seeing in Manitoba," said Cindy Lamoureux, Manitoba Liberal Early Learning and Child Care Critic and MLA for Tyndall Park.
"This budget minimizes the tremendous amount of work needed to improve health care services in Manitoba, including long wait lists for even getting an appointment for diagnostic services like MRIs," said Dr. Jon Gerrard, Manitoba Liberal Health Critic and MLA for River Heights. "A broader strategy is still missing to treat health care workers with respect, end mandatory overtime, ensure timely access to care and to get home care working well."
Lamont said it is critical to recognize that Provincial Governments and Premiers are responsible for running and delivering most of the important services citizens depend on - Health, Education, the Environment, Child and Family Services, and the Justice System - much of it with billions in federal transfer payments.
"Manitoba needs a plan to rebuild and recover after a pandemic and decades of neglect by both the PCs and NDP. This is more of the same that we've heard for decades, and it hasn't worked," said Lamont. "If we're really going to tap into Manitoba's potential, we need to invest in our own people, our own businesses, our own public services, and in environmental renewal for the long-term. The Manitoba Liberal plan will do that."
Manitoba’s largest union is not convinced that Premier Heather Stefanson’s provincial budget is anything more than an attempt to bury the harm the Conservatives have caused to public services in Manitoba, this in a media release Tuesday.
“After two terms of active attacks on public services, the Conservatives think that they can buy themselves the next election,” said Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Manitobans won’t be fooled or bought, and the clock is ticking down for Stefanson’s PCs.”
It is no secret that the Progressive Conservative government has spent years eroding our public health care system, underfunding our education system, and neglecting the social service and child care workers who support those most in need.
“The damage that Stefanson’s government has done to our public services isn’t going away because of an election-year budget,” emphasized McKay. “Manitoba workers have struggled under this government’s ideological agenda, and the only way forward is for Manitobans to vote them out.”
McKay also expressed concern that this election-year budget offered no real long-term commitment to improving public services and supporting front-line workers in the years to come, especially with the rising costs associated with inflation. Instead, the provincial Conservatives are taking the billion in new federal dollars that are intended for public services and spending it on tax cuts to buy votes.
“People are struggling across Manitoba to make ends meet, and this government has spent its time in office cutting health care, privatizing services, and failing to meet the needs of our schools and universities,” said McKay. “The government tried to freeze workers’ wages and push Manitobans further behind—how can anyone trust them to provide real support that keeps up?”
CUPE Manitoba believes the only way to improve Manitoba beyond the government’s cynical 2023 budget is to vote for the Manitoba NDP in October.
“There is only one clear path forward to undoing the harm caused by the Pallister and Stefanson governments, and that is to vote them out and elect a government that actually cares about our public services and the workers who provide them.”
In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 37,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, home care, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries, and family emergency services.
Despite some spending measures aimed at winning re-election, the Heather Stefanson government is still defined by growing hospital wait times, health care privatization, and suppressing the minimum wage, says Unifor in a media release Tuesday.
"Manitobans will not forget the Stefanson government's deliberate and wilful dismantling of the health care system," said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. "One budget cannot undo years of mismanagement by the conservative government."
The Manitoba budget tabled today proposes a collection of new spending initiatives that directly contradict the government's long record of meagre increases, or cutbacks in many cases. Unifor estimates that per capita health care funding barely budged between 2016 and 2022. The increases announced in this budget are largely the result of enhanced federal funding. Much of the capital spending announced in this budget will fund projects cancelled in recent years.
"When Manitobans elect a government this fall, which Heather Stefanson is going to be on the ballot: the careless spendthrift or the architect of cutbacks and privatization?" said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. "It's time for change in Manitoba. Workers and our families can't trust Stefanson to deliver."
The Manitoba election is expected to take place on or before October 3, 2023.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
In a media release from the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA), "The Manitoba government announced that universities will see an increase in funding through the provincial grant. Although this is a step in the right direction, it fails to repair the damage inflicted on the post-secondary education sector since 2016 and also does not provide a breakdown of funding between colleges and universities. The budget gives the sector its first increase in real dollars since that time. After seven years of cuts, this has left Manitoba's universities struggling to recruit and retain faculty, support student success and invest in the future of our province."
"One year of good news will not fix seven years of bad choices. Under the Pallister-Stefanson Progressive Conservatives, public funding for higher education has been cut by nearly a quarter in real dollars, shifting the burden onto the backs of students," said MOFA Vice President Allison McCulloch. "We need a strong commitment to multi-year funding to plan and deliver a viable and coherent vision for higher education in Manitoba."
From 2016 to 2022, grants to our universities increased by less than a million dollars, a minuscule increase that does not factor in skyrocketing inflation. Had the PC government increased funding at the rate of inflation during this time, today's budget would have seen universities receiving $821 million in funding. Instead, this year's budget will provide $773 million to our universities and colleges, which fails to make up for years of cuts and freezes and leaves us with a legacy shortfall of $48 million. MOFA awaits the breakdown of this new funding broken down between colleges and universities.
"Manitobans will see today's news on higher education for what it is: An election-year ploy," said MOFA President Scott Forbes. "During the pandemic, the workloads of everyone involved in post-secondary education have increased "astronomically." Yet faculty and staff have been told to do more with less. And the feast or famine approach to budgeting shows a plain disrespect for education in our province. Post-secondary education deserves better. It deserves funding that at least matches the rate of inflation, not just one year in eight, but every year."
MOFA represents over 1,500 faculty and academic staff at the University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, Brandon University, and the Université de Saint-Boniface.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation supports the income tax cut announced in Budget 2023, but is calling on the government to speed up its timeline and immediately provide the full relief, this according to a media release March 7th.
"Today's tax relief is good news and will let Manitobans keep more of their money when it's needed the most," said Gage Haubrich, Prairie Director of the CTF. "But families are struggling to afford groceries today, so why is the government waiting until after the election to provide the full tax cut?"
This year, the government is increasing the tax-free portion of income from $10,145 to $15,000. This will save taxpayers up to $524.
In 2024, the government is providing further tax relief by adjusting income tax brackets. The lowest tax rate will then apply to the first $47,000 of income, and the second rate will apply to income between $47,000 and $100,000. That means more of Manitobans' money will be taxed at lower rates.
Combined, both income tax changes will save an individual taxpayer up to $1,399 in 2024.
The deficit is expected to be $363 million in 2023. The debt is projected to be $31 billion by the end of the year. Debt interest charges will be $1.3 billion this year, costing $906 per Manitoban.
"The government needs to balance the budget and stop throwing more debt on the backs of future Manitobans," said Haubrich. "More than $1 billion can't be used to improve services or lower taxes this year because it's going to the bond fund managers on Bay Street to pay interest charges on the government credit card."
Spending is increasing from $19.9 billion last budget to $21.9 billion this year. Budget 2023 includes millions spent on corporate welfare, including $50 million to a venture capital fund, $35 million through so-called economic development loans and $10 million to the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund.
"Politicians shouldn't be playing investment banker with taxpayers' money," said Haubrich. "Instead of wasting money on corporate welfare, the government should balance the budget and provide the full tax relief immediately."
In a media release, "Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) commends the Government of Manitoba for the introduction of Budget 2023 and is pleased with the appearance of key advocacy issues that have been raised in recent years.
"Increased funding to Manitoba agriculture of $221 million over the next five years through the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership will provide key support for Manitoba producers," said KAP president, Jill Verwey. "This includes $103.1 million for AgriInsurance premiums, $8.3 million increase in AgriStability, and $3.1 million increased funding for AgriInvest."
With continually rising input costs and inflation affecting farmers, it is encouraging to see the implementation of temporary reductions in forage leases over the next three years and increases to loan limits through Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC).
"By having a reduction in lease rates of 50 percent, 33 percent, and 15 percent over the next three years, respectively, farmers will receive much needed relief that will help them manage their cashflow," continued Verwey. "The increase in loan limits through MASC to $500,000 will also help farmers who need access to capital for their operations."
Support for rural communities is another key highlight in Budget 2023, with an increase of $47 million to municipalities, new capital investments in hospitals, investments to expand the number of veterinarians, and the continued removal of the Education Property Tax on farmland.
"The delivery of the government's commitment to increase the Education Property Tax Rebate to 50% for 2023 is welcome news for Manitoba farmers," said Verwey. "We are also pleased to see new hospitals being constructed in Neepawa and Portage la Prairie, as well as funding to increase seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine earmarked specifically for rural, large animal veterinarians that KAP has been advocating for."
KAP will continue our calls for the complete removal of the Education Property Tax on all farm property, ensuring optimal service levels in rural areas, the development of an education funding model that works for rural Manitobans, and working with government and industry partners on solutions to address labour shortages facing agriculture."
You can check Manitoba Budget 2023 details at https://qcountryfm.ca/news-weather/news-sports-details/newsarticle/mb-governments-2023-budget-promises-tax-cuts-and-more-spending-on-vital-services