Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Manitoba PC's present moderate budget with a few changes from NDP

The first budget introduced by the new Progressive Conservative government of Brian Pallister introduces only minor changes after the recent defeat of the former New Democratic Party (NDP).

The budget does not try to avoid a deficit. Instead is plans for a $890 million deficit at the end of its first fiscal year. Although the budget is called "Correcting the Course" it only makes modest changes. Rather than any drastic cut in government spending and austerity measures, all but two government departments will actually see their budgets rise this year. Health and social services will receive the greatest increases:
 What's now known as Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living will receive an additional $300 million as its budget increases to $6 billion from $5.7 billion. The budget for the new Families Department will rise $100 million, to $1.9 billion from $1.8 billion
The Conservatives, or Tories as they are called, claimed only they would balance the budget during their next term. This would be some time after 2020 if they are re-elected.
The government deficit will actually be more than twice that the NDP Greg Selinger government envisioned for 2015-16. However, the actual deficit was predicted to be around one billion. The new budget gives some tax relief to low income earners and claws back a senior's school-tax rebate brought in by the NDP but only for higher income seniors. Finance Minister Friesen said: "Tax policy must be principled Those seniors who actually need the support will continue to receive it." Friesen also promised to reduce the fees for ambulance service. The opposition NDP said that it expects the Conservatives to bring in deep cuts and an austerity program next year as they did not have time to plan for such policies as yet.
While Manitoba has balanced budget legislation, Finance Minister, Cameron Friesen, plans to suspend it in 2017 and replace it with "legislation that provides Manitoba taxpayers with enforceable protection, including the restoration of their right to vote on major tax increases". There was much opposition to NDP premier Greg Selinger increasing the provincial sales tax after promising not to do so during the election campaign. Friesen said: "This is practical. There's nothing hidden here. We are relying on the advice of experts."
One of the departments to have its budget cut is Manitoba Agriculture. The rural areas were among those most strongly supporting the Progressive Conservatives. The budget drops from $181 million to 180 million. Friesen suggested the drop was actually good news because he said commodity prices are strong and there is an expected drop in crop insurance payments.
Chris Adams, of St. Paul's College at the University of Manitoba said that the budget was "steady as she goes" with no major surprises. He said: "This wasn't a Mike Harris 'Common Sense Revolution' budget, as some people worried about. It's more in tune with what we saw from Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party when they defeated the Saskatchewan NDP in 2007.Also, the premier didn't have a lot of time to get this budget together, so he's really taken what was happening over the past number of years and fine-tuned it. I think next year we'll see some bigger changes."The Harris Ontario provincial budget was very right-wing and ideological whereas the Wall government has been careful not to alter popular social programs associated with the left and NDP. As a result, it has high popularity ratings. However, Adams did note that the budget did not highlight child care, Indigenous issues, or labor issues as the previous NDP government had one.
The Conservatives managed to break with the tradition of showing off a new pair of shoes when they introduce their first budget. Finance Minister, Cameron Friesen, said: "We thought in our first budget as Manitoba government, rather than do something empty to satisfy a tradition, we would instead follow the Manitoba values of inclusiveness and generosity." Friesen gave new pairs of sneakers to the Teweldes, an Eritrean family of five, who recently relocated to Winnipeg via Sudan. Friesen said that as a father of three he understood how little costs add up:"It's tough for families to make those ends meet, Today we're helping this family in one small way." He said that the government would save families money by not raising taxes. 3,000 refugees are expected to be brought to Manitoba over the next year.

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