Budget 2020 doesn’t meet the challenges facing Manitoba
Premier Brian Pallister discusses Budget 2020 released today.
Mar 19, 2020Today the Pallister Government tabled a provincial budget that continues to underfund Manitoba’s public services, while starving provincial departments amid a viral pandemic and a looming economic crisis.
“Really, this is a risky budget and it doesn’t at all feel like it is in step with the reality of what’s happening right now. The Premier is cutting taxes and starving public services when we need them most to respond to a potential spring flood season, a weakened economy, and a global pandemic,” said MGEU President, Michelle Gawronsky. “It’s the wrong budget for the time we’re living in and the challenges we’re facing. Our federal government is putting money into our economy, not taking money out. Our province should be doing the same.”
Because the budget was prepared before the COVID-19 situation escalated, the government added a supplement to the budget intended to address the pandemic. The supplement explains why the government thinks the budget it had planned before the COVID-19 situation escalated is good enough to meet the challenge. Unfortunately, the supplement did not include an emergency economic strategy to help Manitobans struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic-related closures, and it did not provide measures to help the province's economy weather the current economic storm.
“With the delay in presenting their budget I would have thought this government would have taken the opportunity to make changes and deal meaningfully with the ever-growing pandemic that threatens not just the health of Manitobans, but also our economy,” Gawronsky added. “I expected the government would have taken emergency action to give working Manitobans the confidence that, by working together, we will get through this.”
Just yesterday, Gawronsky sent a letter to Premier Pallister asking him to partner up with the Federal government and top up Employment Insurance payments for Manitoba families impacted by the COVID-19 situation. Today’s budget supplement offered nothing to help struggling families in this way.
The budget supplement also failed to reverse the budget cuts to the Public and Population Health section of Manitoba Health.
“How can the government justify cutting funding for the very civil servants coordinating Manitoba’s response to COVID-19?” Gawronsky said. “It’s unconscionable and indefensible.”
The budget continues the government’s plan to redirect more tax dollars into the rainy day fund.
“It doesn’t make sense to be pouring hundreds of millions of tax dollars into a rainy day fund when it’s already raining,” Gawronsky said. “Those tax dollars should be used to help Manitobans get through the pandemic and to support our economy in these uncertain times.”
The budget includes a 1% cut to the PST, which – when offset by the introduction of a provincial carbon tax – will result in an estimated net loss of $40 million for the province. The budget also raises the thresholds for the payroll tax paid by Manitoba’s largest employers. Employers with an annual payroll of $1.5 million or less will now be exempt (up from the current $1.25-million threshold).
“The tax cuts in this budget are not affordable,” added Gawronsky. “Manitobans will pay for them in the form of reduced public services, including weakened public health services. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded Manitobans why strong public services are so vitally important to us all, why it’s important to invest in services like health care, not cut."
Today’s budget also included:
- Cuts in grants to colleges and universities;
- Cuts to custody corrections;
- Cuts to road maintenance;
- Cuts to Employment and Income Assistance;
- Cuts to the Manitoba Developmental Centre budget;
- Cuts to Winnipeg Child and Family Services;
- Frozen budgets for child welfare agencies;
- Plans to devolve Northern Airports and Marine Operations;
- Plans to transform how provincial parks are operated; and
- A five-year plan to privatize Manitoba Housing.