Presentation to the 2020 Manitoba Pre-Budget Consultation Manitoba Legislative Building, December 11, 2019 by Molly McCracken
We have just ten years to cut Green House Gas emissions in half or face catastrophic impacts that threaten life on earth according to United Nations scientists. The best insurance on the future is action. 12,000 young people protested on the lawn of the legislature on September 27th to call on all elected leaders to act – NOW.
Instead, this government’s goal is reducing the deficit– to what end? A balanced budget doesn’t matter on a dead planet. Also there is no consensus on the deficit – $163 million according to you, Minister, or a surplus of $9 million according to the Manitoba Auditor General[i]. Governments borrow money to invest in the future, just as previous generations built the infrastructure and services we all rely on. The Premier talks about $1 billion debt servicing cost. But National Bank of Canada calls our debt servicing cost “quite manageable/affordable”[ii]. Yet this government cut revenue to pay for the debt and deficit while saying debt is the problem. The PST cut costs $327 million of lost revenue per year[iii].
The province is selling off assets, which will just be one-time revenue and then lost forever. In the climate crisis we could use the Pineland tree nursery, for example, to grow seedlings to replace the trees lost during massive October 11th storm.
Earlier today we held the State of the Inner City report launch to 200 people and all major media outlets. The root causes of the meth “crisis” is poverty and lack of housing. Yet the province sold off almost 1,000 units of housing despite 7,000 households on the Manitoba Housing wait list.
This is not to mention staffing shortages in hospitals and emergency rooms, flat lined funding to schools, soaring tuition costs, cut backs to Rent Assist and EIA for single adults and people with mental health challenges. Manitoba’s program expenses per capita (at $11,970 in 2019/20) are lower than the Canadian average ($12,265)[iv]. And the province has been spending less than it budgeted for the past three years.
Instead of austerity, these are our recommendations to you Minister for Budget 2020/21:
- Bring in more revenue: business and the wealthy need to pay their fair share.
- Stop phasing out the education tax on property, we can’t afford it at a cost of $1.05 billion dollars/ year (when residential and business taxes taken into account).
- Stop the sale of crown assets.
- Call on the federal government to implement a Green New Deal and 30,000 green new decent Manitoba jobs in renewables, green infrastructure, retrofits on homes and buildings. This would boost Manitoba’s GDP, which is weak according to the Conference Board of Canada due to a lack of large-scale construction projects[v].
- Stop frozen funding to Manitoba Municipalities and support public, electric transportation and an interprovincial transportation network.
- Invest in 2,000 new social housing units to make up for past inaction and 300 new units/ year going forward.
- Make post-secondary tuition more affordable to support social mobility
- Double funding to community-based mental health supports & organizations.
- Reverse cuts to Rent Assist and EIA and implement a liveable basic needs benefit with training and education supports for jobs
- Fund quality affordable public child care to eliminate the 18,000 person wait list.
Molly McCracken, Director
[iii] Manitoba’s previous 8% sales tax was already on the lower end of the provincial spectrum, creating a relatively low personal tax burden, according to the Conference Board of Canada. And despite a significant increase in provincial debt since the 2008-09 economic crisis, the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio in 2018-17 was still in the bottom half of Canadian provinces. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/fast-facts-austerity-round-two
[v] In August, the Conference Board of Canada predicted Manitoba’s economic GDP growth at .5 per cent for 2019 and .8 per cent in 2020. https://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-Library/abstract.aspx?did=10436