Budget Fails to Keep Province’s Key Promise to Protect and Invest in Public Services
Mar 12, 2018
Today, Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen unveiled this government’s third budget since the April 2016 election.
The Budget, titled Keeping Our Promises, brings a reduction in ambulance fees for Manitobans; some much-needed investment in the province’s FleetNet emergency communications system; and a commitment to build five new schools using public funding instead of the risky and costly P3 privatization schemes that the government had been contemplating.
Unfortunately, today’s budget also brings a significant $152-million cut in highway infrastructure spending, a health care spending increase of just 0.9 per cent (which will result in cuts because it’s lower than the rate of inflation), as well as a $5.4 million cut to operating grants for colleges and universities.
The budget showed very little in the way of investments in the civil service, where the government continues with their plan to cut 1,200 jobs.
“It’s ironic that the title of today’s budget is Keeping our Promises because the key commitment from the Premier before, and shortly after, the election was to protect public services and the people who provide them,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Instead, we have seen a steady erosion of funding that's putting services at risk. That’s not what Manitobans want and it’s not what the Premier promised them.”
The MGEU’s five Budget 2018 priorities were for the government to protect public services; keep services public; end the cuts to health care; protect public pensions; and ensure a balanced approach to budgeting over a reasonable timeframe.
“MGEU members are already feeling the pressure of shortages in staff and funding,” Gawronsky said. “While some Manitobans will see some welcome news in this budget, there are quite a few cuts here for our members, particularly in long-term care, highways, and post-secondary education.”
Highlights from the budget:
- A series of cuts to personal and business taxes. The cuts, which will take $159 million from public services annually, are offset by a carbon tax (on gas, diesel, natural gas and propane) that effectively raises total taxation revenue by $118 million this fiscal year.
- A reduction in highways spending by $152 million, dropping it to $350 million from $502 million last year.
- Ambulance fees will be reduced a further $85 to $340, and 60 full-time paramedic positions will be created.
- Spending increases to health and education are below the rate of inflation, which raises the prospect of service cuts or staff reductions or both.
- $2.3 million cut from long-term care services.
- 1,200 Civil Service jobs will continue to be cut, including positions in highway engineering, workplace safety and health, crime prevention and community corrections.
- Government is moving forward with the possible privatization of government air services, including LifeFlight and forest fire water bombers.