Manitoba Liberals 2020 Budget Submission

February 24, 2020

Manitoba Liberals have been consistent in expressing our concerns and objections to the PC government's ongoing cuts, freezes, and the liquidation of public assets.

We oppose these measures because they are not only unnecessary, but harmful to Manitoba's economy.

We do not share your view that government and its services are all simply costs to be eliminated. The public sector can, should, and does play an essential role in supporting business and broader communities.

Engaging in a race to the bottom in wages, regulatory standards, and taxes does not help us compete with other jurisdictions. It makes Manitobans poorer, less safe, more exposed to pollution, and less able to pay for the very services that ensure our shared prosperity.

This is true of rural, northern and urban communities. Investment is also about educated and skilled workers, and access for families and businesses to education, health and infrastructure.

While the NDP government faced serious management problems, the province of Manitoba's revenue shortfall was due to three major factors: the 2008 economic crisis, $1-billion in tax reductions under the NDP, and the fact that the Harper Conservative government capped and froze transfers to the province of Manitoba for 6 years.

As the Premier himself often states when he cuts taxes, privatizes, closes hospitals, freezes funds to health and education, or undermines the rural economy, he is only doing what the NDP government did as well.

In the last four years, federal transfers to Manitoba have increased by 17%, or $899-million, this year. This means that the federal government has done far more to reduce Manitoba's deficit than the PCs have.

This is critically important. This PC government continues to operate based on assumptions of federal funding that are four years out of date.

For PC government officials to suggest that other levels of government have something to learn from the province's reduced deficits is ludicrous and hypocritical - especially for municipalities and systems that depend on provincial funding.

The province of Manitoba is benefiting from the federal decision to run deficits and increase transfers by 17%. If the province had increased funding to health, education, municipalities and infrastructure by 17% in the last four years, those institutions would all likely have surpluses.

Since coming to office, the PC government has acted to obstruct federal investments in health care, housing, infrastructure, and to address climate change. While Manitoba is not alone in doing this, it has been among the last to sign these agreements. For thousands of Manitobans, this has delayed treatment.

Manitoba could have a balanced budget and be investing in infrastructure, education, and health care right now. This government is choosing to borrow to finance tax cuts, delaying a balanced budget and increasing debt, and reducing the government's future capacity to respond to an economic downturn.

Borrowing to cut taxes and borrowing to invest may be seen as having equal impact. That is by no means the case. There is no guarantee that the savings from tax cuts will go back into Manitoba's economy, but strategic investments can ensure that they do.

Quality public education, public health care, and infrastructure are all essential to making Manitoba competitive. To date, the measures taken by this government to cut and consolidate are having the effect of shrinking the public sector through privatization. This is not necessarily better or more efficient, but most important it is a zero-sum game. Cuts through attrition do not reduce the amount of work to be done - it simply adds to the work of people in systems that were already chaotic, disorganized and overburdened under the NDP.

Businesses and families alike depend on schools, health care, and on infrastructure that lets people and goods move easily. Manitobans deserve policies and plans that will unlock the potential of our province and its people. If we want a better future, we have to make keeping children safe a priority. After years of having some of the deepest poverty in Canada, the Manitoba government must present a credible plan that will actually make a dent in poverty, crime, the environment and job creation.

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