Unions criticize Manitoba budget; Chamber of Commerce, municipalities applaud it

The PC Government released their 2023 budget on Tuesday, and while they say their aim is historic spending to help Manitobans, stakeholders in the province are having mixed reactions. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

The Government of Manitoba says its budget is aimed at helping Manitobans, but many stakeholders are having mixed reactions to the 2023 delivery.

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Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, didn’t mince words when reacting to the budget at the legislature.

“Many of the announcements that were made (Tuesday) are recycled,” said Jackson. “It’s announcements and money that has been announced over the past six to seven months, so there really was not a large amount of new investments for health care.

“Adding dollars now and adding investments pre-election is not going to repair the six years of austerity and the six years damaging our system.”

Other unions in the province, including the Manitoba Government Employees Union (MGEU), which represents more than 32,000 workers in the province, says the document fell short.

‘This budget doesn’t go far enough’ 

“Our members have been struggling with recruitment and retention issues with the civil service and the public service,” said MGEU president Kyle Ross. “And this budget doesn’t really help them and it doesn’t help Manitobans either.

“This really feels like a band aid on a much larger problem. There’s generational issues and the government really needs to take time and invest in the civil service, so Manitobans can get the services they need.

“This budget doesn’t go far enough.”

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On Tuesday, the Progressive Conservative government boasted what it says were historic tax breaks for Manitobans in the $21.8 billion budget, increasing the basic personal income amount and tax thresholds.

But other parties in the province were not happy, with NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew saying the PC party is desperate.

Dougald Lamont, leader of the Manitoba Liberals, also took issue, saying in a statement: “Even where the budget makes big promises, how can you trust the PCs to fix health, education or infrastructure when they just spent seven years trashing these sectors?”

Praise for tax breaks

However the tax breaks and budget was welcome news to some in the province.

Loren Remillard, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, says the tax breaks could be a boon for the economy.

“We know right now, Manitobans are struggling with disposal income,” said Remillard. “There’s less of it and people are facing increased costs. These measures will definitely help put more disposable income into Manitobans’ pockets and those are things that they can then use to support our local economy. Absolutely good news.”

Municipalities also saw a boost in funding from the province of more than 28 per cent from last year, with more than $217 million in operating funding going towards municipalities and Northern Affairs communities.

The province also earmarked $160.4 million in municipal infrastructure funding for water, wastewater, roads, public transit and other capital projects.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities says the increase in funding has been a long time coming.

“We’ve been frozen with our finances since 2016 and to see an increase in funding finally, after all that time, and it’s a generous increase to municipalities, so that is something that’s very welcome and that’s definitely going to make a big difference,” said Kam Blight, the group’s president.

“I think this is a very positive budget. Any time you can put more money into the pockets of the residents, it’s definitely going to benefit municipalities and the province as a whole.”

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