The Manitoba government has unveiled its Budget 2021

By: Brayden Hnatiuk
Posted: April 7, 2021 15:36

Investments include $1.2 billion for COVID-19 response

Image: file

The Manitoba government introduced its 2021 budget today.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding says COVID-19 has upended lives and caused hardship and tragedy for many Manitobans, "We recognize our province and people will continue to face profound health, social and economic impacts and uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic. Even though we are not yet through the darkness of COVID-19, we must begin to plan for the light of recovery that lies ahead."

Manitoba has invested more per person on health care, education and social services combined than any other province, and Budget 2021 increases funding in these priority areas by nearly $1.5 billion.

"Despite the ongoing financial and economic challenges posed by the pandemic, this budget continues to make record investments in the priority public services that Manitobans rely on," said Fielding. "We will grow our way out of deficit and back into balance by investing in more jobs, tax relief and economic growth."

COVID-19 has created a significant deficit due to unanticipated health-care costs and support programs, and the unprecedented drop in revenues from the economic shutdown. The province projects a deficit of $1.597 billion for 2021-22, an improvement from the third quarter projection for 2020-21 of $2.08 billion.

Protecting Manitobans' Through COVID-19

The first priority of Budget 2021 is to continue to protect Manitobans through the ongoing pandemic. This includes $1.18 billion in 2021-22 for COVID-19 costs including personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccine deployment, education supports and future needs.

Health-care funding increases by $156 million to the highest level in Manitoba history, $6.98 billion, and builds a stronger health-care system with better care sooner. Health-care commitments include:
- $812-million capital confirmation for rural and northern health care under the multi-year Clinical and Preventative Services Plan;
- $50 million to reduce wait times for hip, knee and cataract procedures, and surgeries and services delayed by the pandemic;
- additional $23 million for cancer treatments and $2.7 million to expand dialysis; 
- $9.3 million to add more than 120 personal care home beds; and 
- continuous glucose monitor coverage for eligible children and youth under 25 and increasing insulin pump coverage to 25 from age 18.

The pandemic has profoundly impacted the mental health of many Manitobans. Budget 2021 includes an initial $342 million for programming and services within the new Department of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery, plus an additional $1.7 million for the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy and $1.8 million more for 24-7 housing supports for Manitobans with diagnosed mental health conditions.

Protecting Manitoba Families

The province will continue lifting Manitobans out of poverty by ensuring safe and affordable housing and strengthening social services, supported by a nearly $34-million increase to the Department of Families. Budget 2021 includes:
- nearly $4 million more for early learning and child care, with operating grants of $1.6 million to child-care centres supporting 392 spaces that opened over the past year, approximately 150 new spaces in capital projects opening over the coming year, plus 50 new home-based licensed child-care spaces;
- rent control guideline frozen through 2023 and an additional $22 million for Rent Assist; 
- $12.5 million increase for Community Living and disABILITY Services;
- $2.56 million to support Manitobans experiencing homelessness; and
- nearly $2 million to pilot three new workforce training and support programs for Employment Income Assistance (EIA) program clients.

Budget 2021 makes a record investment above $3 billion in the public school system. Overall education support includes:
- more than $78 million for COVID-19 costs through the Safe Schools Fund;
- $5.5 million for special needs funding;
- $5 million to advance the Better Education Starts Today (BEST) strategy to improve the education system, plus an Education Funding Guarantee of at least $1.6 billion in additional investment over four years; 
- nearly $4 million to support online, distance and remote learning;
- a new refundable Teaching Expense Tax Credit that will allow child-care and kindergarten to Grade 12 educators to claim a 15 per cent refund for up to $1,000 on eligible supplies not reimbursed by their employer; and
- an increase of $100 million in school capital project funding to accelerate construction of the 20 New Schools Guarantee, build major additions and make renovations.

Budget 2021 invests in public safety to keep families safe in their homes and communities and support victims of crime:
- $16.5 million to operate Manitoba's new Public Safety Communications Service radio system;
- up to $2.9 million to fix the backlog in the courts system caused by COVID-19;
- additional $815,000 to increase supports for family violence and families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; and
- $1.2 million in restorative justice initiatives for First Nations and MĂ©tis communities.

Budget 2021 leaves more money on the kitchen tables of Manitoba families by delivering in full the $2,020 Tax Rollback Guarantee one year earlier than planned:
- phasing out education property taxes by 50 per cent over the next two years (25 per cent per year) for residential and farm properties, and 10 per cent for other types of property, with rebates returning nearly $250 million to approximately 658,000 property owners this year, and an average rebate of $1,140 over two years;
- removing the retail sales tax (RST) on personal services including haircuts and salon services as of December;
- reducing vehicle registration fees a further 10 per cent starting in July; and
- indexing Basic Personal Amount and personal income tax brackets to inflation so an additional 1,500 Manitobans won't have to pay provincial income tax for 2021.

Budget 2021 protects Manitoba's environment for future generations through more action on climate change and protects the clean energy advantage with a secure Manitoba Hydro. Investments include: 
- $1.2 million to the Climate and Green Plan Implementation Office,
- $1 million for Conservation and Climate Fund projects, and
- $20 million-endowment fund so Manitobans can enjoy provincial parks for generations to come.

Advancing Manitoba Past COVID-19

The second focus of Budget 2021 is to advance jobs and economic recovery. Manitoba's economic outlook indicates a strong rebound in 2021 with real GDP rising 4.1 per cent, followed by another solid year in 2022 of 3.6 per cent real growth.

Budget 2021 includes more than $62 million to help businesses retrain employees and develop e-commerce platforms, and $25 million for youth job programs.

Additional tax relief for small businesses includes lowering payroll tax thresholds to reduce rates for approximately 1,100 small businesses, exempting approximately 240, and enhancing or extending several tax credits in areas such as small business venture capital, interactive digital media and film production.

Budget 2021 helps advance post-secondary students with nearly $700 million to post-secondary institutions, plus an additional $4 million in bursaries and additional $1.4 million in interest-free student loans.

A record $2.1-billion investment in strategic infrastructure will help drive construction jobs and stimulate the economy:
- almost $630 million for road construction and maintenance, including $107 million through the Manitoba Restart Program, which will allow safety improvements at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Provincial Trunk Highway 16 and the south perimeter interchange at St. Mary's Road;
- more than $292 million for health infrastructure including the new St. Boniface Hospital emergency department; and
- $415 million for kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary infrastructure.

The budget sets aside $101 million for the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels flood prevention project, and $100 million for potential emergencies such as floods, forest fires and drought.

Budget 2021 also supports communities through the following commitments:
- $103.5 million increase for priority strategic infrastructure projects that match federal funds under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP);
- flexible basket funding to municipalities with $172.6 million in operating costs and $137 million in capital costs, with advanced operating grants again this year;
- $25 million in trust to redevelop the Hudson's Bay Building in downtown Winnipeg; and
- $5.6 million more for the Building Sustainable Communities Program to fund more than 10 larger-scale community capital projects.
 

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