Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Sheriff' Struthers content to continue robbing from poor

  • Print

NDP Finance Minister Stan Struthers last week poured cold water on a suggestion put forward by Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives to increase the basic personal exemption by $2,000, thus matching the Canadian average for the amount one can earn before paying taxes.

It's not surprising the NDP rejected the idea. Over the last several budgets they have been steadily migrating from their middle-of-the-road approach to a more left-of-centre fiscal strategy, including ditching balanced-budget legislation, increasing taxes and adding to the debt.

While not surprising, it is definitely disappointing to see Today's NDP resort to tired old rhetoric about tax cuts taking away "money from schools, hospitals and infrastructure."

Disappointing because the BPE is a powerful tool in the government's policy bag for improving the lives of people on low and fixed incomes.

It is far more effective than politically motivated increases to minimum wage that benefit the province as much as those earning it.

The government's own budget papers tell us a $100 increase to the basic exemption will remove 2,000 low-income earners from the tax rolls.

If a $100 increase will remove 2,000, then imagine how many a $2,000 increase would remove.

To give you an idea, in 2008, when Saskatchewan increased its BPE by $4,000, an estimated 92,000 low-income earners were removed from the tax rolls.

We are talking here about the working poor and individuals on fixed incomes, people at the bottom of the income ladder who nevertheless are still required to divert a portion of that limited income to Manitoba's coffers.

In 2001, when the provinces assumed full control of the personal income tax system, Saskatchewan's basic exemption was $8,000 while ours was $7,412, a modest difference of $588 or eight per cent.

Thanks to, or because of, an unwillingness on the part of the NDP to make annual increases to the basic exemption at least at the rate of inflation, by 2012 our BPE had increased to $8,634 while Saskatchewan's had increased to $14,942 -- a difference of $6,308, or 73 per cent.

Perhaps we would not find ourselves in a situation requiring such substantive action if Today's NDP paid more than mere lip service to keeping Manitoba competitive.

It's also worth noting that despite taking almost 100,000 taxpayers off the tax rolls, Saskatchewan has still managed to become a have province and, according to the most recent RBC provincial outlook, will see real GDP growth that leads the country.

The real difference between the government of Saskatchewan's approach to taxation and that of the government of Manitoba is one of attitude, as witnessed in the language used to describe essentially the same announcement.

Saskatchewan said that their exemption increase would "save... taxpayers over $300 million a year."

Here in Manitoba, we are told it will "rob the provincial treasury (of $140 million a year)."

So the same tax policy in Saskatchewan is seen as saving taxpayers money, but in Manitoba, the NDP dismiss it as robbing government.

Taxpayers are inherently distrustful of government, in particular the attitude that "we know best how to spend your money."

When governments start to view reducing the tax burden as robbing their treasuries then they have lost sight of the fact it is our money, not theirs.

Struthers would be well-served to remember that he is the finance minister, not the Sheriff of Nottingham.

If the Manitoba treasury is being robbed, I suspect it is an inside job.

Shannon Martin is a Winnipeg

political commentator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2012 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google