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Little in federal budget to affect Manitoba

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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget contained virtually no goodies for Winnipeg or Manitoba except an overhaul to the Emerson border crossing announced a year ago.

The 400-plus page document, released Tuesday afternoon, was always sold as a stand-pat budget, with little new spending as the Conservatives move to eliminate the deficit in time for the 2015 election.

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But, local policy experts were hard-pressed to find much in the budget that will directly impact the province.

Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Doug Dobrowolski said he was disappointed the budget included no details on the new Building Canada infrastructure fund that towns and cities are looking to for the next generation of road, sewer and transit funding.

"On the infrastructure side, it’s very vague and very disappointing," said Dobrowolski.

And, Northern Grand Chief David Harper said he was hoping for more details on the recently-announced First Nations education agreement.

But, Harper was pleased to hear Ottawa would boost funding to its Northern nutrition program. The amount of new funding won’t be announced until a later date.

Manitoba’s Jobs and Economy Minister Theresa Oswald said today there is little in the budget for Manitoba — just the opposite, in fact.

"It’s not what I would define as a block-buster read," she said.

Oswald said the budget confirms Ottawa is not prepared at this time to address a loss of an anticipated $100-million in transfer payments this year due to what the province describes as a population miscount by Statistics Canada. The Selinger government argues the federal agency underestimated the province’s population by 18,000 people, which essentially robs the province of per capita health and social transfer payments to reflect population growth.

"What we’re seeing in this budget today is no acknowledgement of the fact that Manitoba, growing in population, will have to made do with same amount they’ve been getting for five years," she said.

She said the province has asked for "sober second look" into the discrepancy and will live by whatever that independent review determines.

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