The Selinger government put more meat on the bone today on its five-year plan to use PST revenue to spend $5.5 billion on fixing and improving Manitoba’s crumbling infrastructure.
Much of what the province will fix has already been announced--improving Highways 75 and the TransCanada, for example. The plan also comes a day before Finance Minister Jennifer Howard tables the government’s budget for the coming year.
What it doesn’t do it outline how much money Ottawa will contribute under its own Building Canada Fund. Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald said the province has yet to sit down with senior Manitoba MP Shelly Glover on what Ottawa’s share will be.
Oswald said the province’s plan is based on how much money the federal government has contributed in past years to infrastructure projects.
Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said the plan wouldn’t be what it is without last year’s one point increase of the provincial sales tax to eight per cent.
"The next five years will have a significant increase over the last five years and the difference is the one cent on the dollar," he said.
The NDP also recruited the Conference Board of Canada to vet the five-year plan. The board said the plan will create a total of 59,900 person-years of jobs, lift Manitoba's economy by $6.3 billion and generate $1.4 billion in retail sales.
Ashton also said the plan represents how the NDP differ from the opposition Progressive Conservatives, offering a glimpse at how the NDP will fight the next election campaign in two years.
"I think over the next period of time (Manitobans) are also going to see that there’s a clear choice," he said. "Certainly, our political opponents have made it very clear what they would do. They would cut the one cent on the dollar. They would end up cutting a lot of programming, but they would also cut the investment in infrastructure."
Opposition Leader Brian Pallister said the province should not be using revenue from the PST for infrastructure, but instead fund it through general revenue like every other province.
"It’s the only province that’s jacked up the PST," Pallister said. "It’s inflicted the highest back-to-back tax increases on Manitobans of any Canadian province and of any government in the history of Manitoba, and now it’s trying to tell Manitobans that that’s a good thing? I don’t think so."
Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives are challenging the PST increase in court without a referendum. The first court date is April 25.