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New Provincial budget chops PST to 7 percent, invests in capital projects

07.03.2019 15:28
By: Brad Gordon

Deficit for 2019-2020 will come in at 360 million

Winnipeg, MB (CKLQ) - The Pallister Government revealed its budget today.

In spite of a general theme of fiscal restraint, reflecting a desire to eventually eliminate annual deficits, the government provided some money for badly needed capital projects.

Most notable, though, is a cut to the provincial sales tax.  The tax will fall from eight to seven percent on July 1st.  That move fulfills a key election  promise of the Pallister government.  Some, including NDP leader Wab Kinew, had stated that a PST cut in this particular budget would indicate the Conservatives plan to go to the polls earlier than 2020.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding forecasts a deficit of $360 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year, $161 million less than the deficit projected the year previous.

The budget provides one million dollars in new funding to expand the number of withdrawal management beds in Winnipeg and Brandon.  In addition, the province will spend an additional $2.3 million to target drug-related criminal activity, the including methamphetamine trade.

Other highlights in Budget 2019 include:

- new health funding to allow lower ambulance fees (to a maximum of 250 dollars), hire 35 new paramedics, provide funding for five new or enhanced health facllities, and a 2.4 million dollar increase in renal therapy funding

-  providing a total of $313.5 million in basket funding for local governments that continues to provide municipalities with the flexibility they need to meet local needs including enhanced support for roads and bridges for municipalities outside of Winnipeg

- $350 million in new highway infrastructure, including projects such as the Daly Bridge in Brandon, and the replacement of the existing overpass near Portage la Prairie

- allocating $45 million toward capital projects in recognition of Manitoba’s 150th anniversary including funding for additional highways and other infrastructure projects;

- 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;

- 15 new projects and over 50 drain rehabilitation projects under the Water Related Capital program, for a total estimated investment of $46 million.

- primary and secondary school funding will rise by $6.6 miliion, plus capital funding will rise $56 million to support school infrastructure and new school projects.

- increasing Manitoba’s RCMP staffing complement by 29 positions, including funding for 27 additional officers

- Ambulance fees will be lowered to $250