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Manitoba's NDP government delivers tax cuts, rebates in first postelection budget

Hold on fuel tax continues, while vape tax to increase.
map of Manitoba with pin in it

The Manitoba government is delivering on promised rebates and tax cuts in its spring budget, while also changing property taxes in a way that will see many homeowners and commercial property owners paying more.

The NDP government’s first budget since last October’s election, released Tuesday, extends the provincial fuel-tax holiday by three months.

The 14-cent-a-litre tax was suspended Jan. 1 and was to be reinstated July 1, but the government is extending the break until the end of September.

Finance Minister Adrien Sala’s budget also fulfils campaign promises to provide free prescription birth control, rebates of up to $4,000 on electric vehicles and $300 rebates on security cameras. It also doubles the tax credit for fertility treatments.

“This is a plan to be able to make good on so many of the promises that we were elected by Manitobans to deliver on,” Premier Wab Kinew said.

The budget also contains a major reworking of the education tax on properties, which was not spelled out on the election campaign trail. 

A new flat credit will replace the existing combination of credits and rebates, starting next year. 

The change will see people with lower-value homes pay less and those with higher-value homes pay more. Many homeowners are looking at increases of hundreds of dollars.

Commercial property owners are losing their rebates and will not get the tax credit offered to homeowners. Overall, the property tax changes will raise provincial revenues by $148 million annually.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said the tax hike is substantial and they do not believe the government's statement that most Manitobans will see savings.

"When you really drill down to it, it's going to be a significant loss to Manitobans. And I think it's going to hurt more people than it's going to help," interim Tory leader Wayne Ewasko said.

There is also a change to income taxes that will see people with net income above $200,000 paying more through a clawback on the basic personal exemption.

The province is adding a tax on vaping products to match an existing federal levy.

The budget also commits to a billion-dollar boost in health care.

The NDP's main campaign promise was to "fix" staffing shortages and long wait times and to reopen some closed emergency departments. Kinew's election platform tried to carve a middle-of-the-road approach with both tax cuts and, in some areas, big spending increases.

The province will hire 1,000 health-care workers this year, Kinew promised, and work will begin toward construction of emergency departments in south Winnipeg and Eriksdale, north of the capital.

The budget sets aside money for a supervised consumption site in Winnipeg, which would be the first in the province and would open next year. 

The news was welcomed by End Homelessness Winnipeg, an anti-poverty group.

"I think safe consumption is an opportunity to establish a relationship with the individual that is living with an addiction and give them hope and connect them with the right resources," said Jason Whitford, the group's chief executive officer.

The budget commits $500,000 to start an inquiry into cost overruns at the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters and other money for a review of the previous Tory government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We absolutely need to go through a thorough exercise of asking what happened, what worked, what didn’t, (and) what should we do better next time,” Kinew said.

The budget forecasts a deficit of $796 million, down from almost $2 billion last year, on total spending of $24.1 billion. The province is helped this year by a big jump in federal transfer payments, which add close to $1 billion to Manitoba coffers.

Manitoba has run deficits in every year but two since 2009, and the government’s net debt is forecast to climb this year to $35 billion. 

Liberal Leader Cindy Lamoureux said the government is wrong to extend the fuel-tax holiday at a time of high debt and pressing social needs.

"I think that there are many other ways you could be using the money," said Lamoureux.


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