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Five priorities outlined in Pallister throne speech

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The speech from the throne, opening the second session of the 42nd legislature focussed on five priorities of guaranteed tax relief, job growth, healthcare investments, education reform and climate action, Nov. 19.
“Today’s throne speech outlined many things that you’ve heard before and Manitobans have heard before, but I would say that hearing these as campaign promises and now hearing them again as things we’re actually committed to doing, verifies that we keep our word,” said Premier Brian Pallister.
Under tax relief, the province announced it will introduce legislation to begin the implementation of the 2020 Tax Rollback Guarantee and eliminate the education portion of property taxes.
The phase out is to begin the first year after the budget is balanced in two years, Pallister said, and is to be completed over a maximum of 10 years.
“And that means that we can then begin the process of phasing out what amounts to about an approximately $80 million revenue hit to the province each year. But I should emphasize that means $80 million of additional money left in the hands of the people who work for it in the first place, so it’s not like a loss,” he said.
Taking up to a decade to phase out the tax is a necessary step, Pallister explained, as it is a massive undertaking.
“Phasing it out over time and leaving more money gradually in the hands of the people who have invested in their homes and their farms and their businesses, I think, is just the fair and right thing to do. And many, many academic studies agree with this observation,” he added.
Pointing out Dauphin has the highest percentage of seniors of any community in rural Manitoba, Pallister noted many seniors living on fixed incomes often have a challenge stretching their income to be secure in retirement. Paying a high education tax, he said, often means seniors are not able to do some of the extra things Dauphin has to offer.
“It’s not exclusive to Dauphin, of course, but I would say that it’s really important to allow our seniors to live a better quality of life, to enjoy some additional security in their golden years,” Pallister said.
Regarding healthcare investments, the premier explained the province is working to upgrade equipment by contacting other provinces to organize better purchasing of health equipment.
“We think that we can save a considerable amount of money and therefore make more equipment like CT scanners, MRI equipment and the like available, if we bulk buy and co-operate with other jurisdictions,” Pallister said, noting he recently raised this issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Manitoba and Saskatchewan are home to some of the smartest shoppers in the country and we do it, as practical people, because we know that if we can save some money, we can put it to other priorities.”
Pallister highlighted the focus the province is putting on improving public safety, by acting on the recommendations of the Asper report from the Manitoba Police Commission, which is currently in a draft form.
Aside from making improvements in downtown Winnipeg, he said, the report will have transferable ideas that can be used in other centres to assist in educating people on safer behaviours for community activities at night, or even recommending better street lighting.
Education is an important part of public safety, Pallister added, announcing a drug education program will be renewed in the next school year.
“That’s really important, because the meth issue is real in our province and our children need to be educated on the dangers,” he said, pointing out the province has invested tens of millions of dollars in additional treatment.
“There’s more to be done there on the preventative side in terms of treatment on mental health issues related to drug dependency or other dependencies. And so we’re acting on each of these categories, security, education and treatment, to make sure that people who live by the laws of our province and would never harm anyone else, feel safe in their own hometown and safe in their own neighbourhood and safe in the country around the province where they may live.”

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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