“This tax cut is coming at the expense of our hospitals, our colleges, and our roads.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (13 March 2019) — On March 7, the Manitoba government released a budget entitled Getting the Job Done that maintains a course of austerity and service cuts.
Manitoba government breaking promises on funding public services
“Manitobans who are concerned about reduced services for things like health care and education will find little comfort in this budget,” said Michelle Gawronsky, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE).. “This government ran on a promise to protect public services and the people who provide them, but that’s certainly not what we’re seeing. Instead, we’re paying for tax cuts with service cuts.”
The budget includes
- continued under-spending in health care as the government presses forward with its austerity agenda
- cuts to the highway maintenance budget
- reductions in grants to universities and colleges by 2%
- reduction in flood mitigation and infrastructure funding
- cuts to corrections and court services
- cuts to funding for Child and Family Services (CFS) agencies
- reduced funding for staffing at Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
Overall spending per department is virtually flat, up just slightly from 2018/19 (about $14.204 billion from $14.169 billion). But the slight rise still doesn’t keep pace with the rising costs of inflation.
Budget cuts across departments
The departments of Finance, Agriculture, and Sustainable Development will all see their budgets cut (2.3%, 1.5%, and 1.3% respectively), while the departments of Municipal Relations, Infrastructure, Families and Education will see their budgets effectively frozen (with increases of 0%, 0.2%, 0.2%, and 0.2% respectively).
The department of Sport, Culture and Heritage will receive the biggest increase in funding (20%), while Indigenous and Northern Relations will get the second-largest spending increase (6%). Health, the largest government department, will not see its funding keep pace with rising costs — it will receive a very modest increase of 0.5%.
“If you’re a patient in need of hospital and health care services, or a student looking to upgrade your skills, or a driver on Manitoba roads, you’re going to feel the effects of this budget,” said Gawronsky. “We continue to see the narrow focus on the bottom-line in this budget, and all the while they are balancing the books on the backs of hard-working Manitobans," said Gawronsky.
More lost revenue
In 2019/20, the government will press ahead with its plan to cut the provincial sales tax by one percentage point to 7% as of July 1, 2019.
The tax cut is expected to cost the government $237 million this year (or $325 million for a full year). At the same time, the provincial government will see a $324 million increase in transfer payments from the federal government, which will help, in part, to offset this lost revenue for public services. About $176 million of the $325 million is expected to be saved by Manitoba consumers, while the cut saves $133 million for the business sector.
“This tax cut is coming at the expense of our hospitals, our colleges, and our roads,” said Gawronsky. “While the Premier brags about the PST cut, he glosses over all of the cuts coming at the expense of that lost revenue.”
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