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Province rolls back PST in 2019-20 budget

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Six years to the day after the former NDP government increased it, Manitobans will see a reduction to the PST to seven per cent from eight per cent, July 1.
After he introduced the budget in the legislature, Mar. 7, Finance Minister Scott Fielding explained the main reason the provincial tax was reduced was the Pallister government felt it was wrongfully increased by the former government.
“We’re keeping our election promise commitment that we did to reduce the PST and we truly think with all the other taxes that other levels of government are coming at individuals with, whether it be carbon tax, or municipal taxes, that Manitobans need a break. And so this will give them a break,” Fielding said, noting the reduction will translate to about a $3,000 difference for an average Manitoban family of four.
Along with a reduction to the PST, he noted, Budget 2019 forecasts a summary deficit of $360 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which is $161 million less than the deficit projected for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
“We’re almost 80 per cent of the way there, in terms of getting ourselves back into balance. We’re still absolutely committed to getting ourselves in balance in our second term and we’re making good progress,” Fielding added, crediting a lot of private sector capital investment particularly in the food processing industry.
Budget 2019 spends about $414 million more on health care, he said, than when the Conservative party first came to office.
“And more importantly we’re getting some good results in terms of reductions in wait times, more doctors in the province, less time waiting to get into personal care homes,” Fielding said, pointing out ambulance fees will be lowered to a maximum of $250, five new or enhanced health facilities will be opened with operating funding of $6.4 million and an additional 35 primary care paramedics will be hired with $3.8 million in devoted funding.
It is the same thing in education, he said, with an increase in funding over the time the Pallister government has been in office, by more than $434 million.
Budget 2019 increases primary and secondary school funding by $6.6 million, Fielding explained, and increases Kindergarten to Grade 12 capital funding by more than $56 million to support structural repairs, roof replacements, new mechanical systems and accessibility projects, facilities for special needs students and two major school additions, as well as funding for existing new school projects in Brandon, Niverville, Winkler and Winnipeg.
Funding to social services has been increased by about $236 million, he said, noting for the first time in over 50 years, the province has seen a reduction in the number of children in care and the child poverty rate under the current government has dropped by over 42 per cent.
“So we’re making some good progress but there’s much more to do as government and we’re excited about some of the progress we’ve done together,” Fielding said.
The province will invest an additional $2.3 million, he noted, to target drug-related criminal activity including methamphetamine and gang-related crime prevention initiatives.
“Meth is a complicated issue, so we also want to have supports for people that are addicted, but you know what’s also really, really important is making sure that the dealers and the gangs that are bringing these drugs into our community are addressed, as well. And so we think that this $2.3 million will help with crime prevention,” he said, adding budget increases to funding for 27 additional RCMP officers across the province is part of it.
The province is spending more than $1 billion on strategic infrastructure such as roads and bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure projects, flood protection, hospitals, schools, universities and colleges, as well as funding major improvements to airports at St. Theresa Point, Norway House and Shamattawa.
Funding for the Young Farmer Rebate Enhancement program will be increased by 32 per cent to $2 million and the province is supporting 15 new projects and over 50 drain rehabilitation projects under the Water Related Capital program, for an estimated investment of $46 million.
The minister noted Manitoba has led the country in private capital investment over the past year and is on track to be one of the leading provinces again this year.
“We are giving Manitobans the government they want, at a price they can afford,” said Fielding.
“With the opportunities in Budget 2019, we will continue to move our province forward, fueled by the knowledge that Manitoba’s best days are ahead of us.”

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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