Despite election promises, "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.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (13 March 2018) — On March 12, Cameron Friesen, Manitoba's Minister of Finance, unveiled this government’s third budget since the April 2016 election.
Manitoba budget brings some good news
The budget,entitled Keeping Our Promises, brings
- a reduction in ambulance fees for Manitobans
- a much-needed investment in the province’s FleetNet emergency communications system
- a commitment to build 5 new schools using public funding instead of the risky and costly P3 privatization schemes that the government had been contemplating.
...and brings some bad news
Unfortunately, the 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 the 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 Michelle Gawronsky, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE). “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.”
Government fails on MGEU/NUPGE priorities
The MGEU/NUPGE’s 5 priorities for the 2018 budget were for the government to
- protect public services
- keep services public
- end the cuts to health care
- protect public pensions
- ensure a balanced approach to budgeting over a reasonable timeframe
“MGEU/NUPGE 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.”
- 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 and/or staff reductions.
- $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.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE