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This article was published 8/4/2016 (352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brian Pallister is betting he can find savings and reduce waste in government where the NDP couldn’t — enough to more than pay for his election promises.
Pallister released the cost of his campaign pledges Friday at a breakfast event attended by dozens of his candidates and supporters at The Forks.
He pegged the cost of his promises at a modest $116.9 million, but the figure only covered the first full year of a PC administration, starting next year. What’s more, it only reflected the incremental increases to government spending resulting from the pledges. For example, the PC promise to earmark $1 billion a year for infrastructure was listed as having an "incremental impact" of $50 million, since the Tories calculate the NDP spent $950 million on infrastructure in the most recent fiscal year.
'We're showing where we'll save money and where we will invest it. We're the only party that is doing that' -- PC Leader Brian Pallister
Pallister promised a PC government would save $35 million by tendering more government contracts and find more than $50 million in savings after a comprehensive review of government departments. It would also cut government travel by five per cent, eliminate self-congratulatory government ads and slash the size of cabinet and its supporting bureaucracy.
The savings from these and other changes would total up to $138.9 million, the PC leader said, or $21.9 million more than the cost of his promises.
"We’re showing where we’ll save money and where we will invest it. We’re the only party that is doing that," Pallister said.
He said the Tories would make good on their promise — no later than 2020 — to reduce the PST to seven per cent. He said they’d also find savings to pay for the estimated $300-million annual cost of the tax reduction.
The Tories would continue to increase government spending, but at a more sustainable rate of "no less than three per cent," he said.
Pallister didn’t say a government he led would have the best job-creation record in Canada or the shortest hospital wait times, but he vowed Manitoba would be "the most improved" province in these and other areas, such as in family tax relief and student reading results.
"I want Manitoba to be, in our first term, the most improved province in Canada," he proclaimed.
Pallister scoffed when it was suggested his projected savings — equivalent to about one per cent of total government spending — may be overly optimistic. "Ask Manitobans: if you go to a number of stores and comparison shop, do you think you can save one per cent? What do you think the answer will be?" he shot back.
The Tory leader said savings will have to be found in all government departments, including health. He said the NDP has been wrong to ignore savings possibilities in some departments while "cannibalizing" others.
The Tories would eliminate the East Side Road Authority and fold its operations into the Infrastructure and Transportation Department. That would not necessarily doom the organization’s projects, but they would be re-evaluated, Pallister said. He said a PC government would keep a Manitoba commitment to help build a road for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari laughed when told Pallister said he’d reduce the deficit by $22 million in his first year in office and did not cost out his pledge to reduce the PST.
"I don’t mean to laugh, but honestly I just don’t know how this is possible, based on what he’s already promised," Bokhari said at her campaign office Friday. "He’s portraying himself as the fiscally responsible, knowledgeable leader. But when Manitobans truly take a look at what he’s saying and start peeling back the onions, Manitobans will know and find themselves very concerned."
The NDP issued a statement blasting Pallister for announcing spending cuts the same day Statistics Canada released job numbers "showing that Manitoba has the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country — with the best labour force growth, the best job growth and the second highest full-time job growth."
— with files from Bartley Kives