June 4, 2020

19° C, Sunny

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?


Advertise With Us

Cuts to seniors tax rebate, ambulance fees in Manitoba Tories' first budget

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2016 (1465 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba's new Finance Minister Cameron Friesen speaks to media at a press conference before the provincial budget is read at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Tuesday, May 31, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba's new Finance Minister Cameron Friesen speaks to media at a press conference before the provincial budget is read at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Tuesday, May 31, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG — High-income seniors who own homes will no longer get a cheque of up to $470 a year and minimum-wage earners may not get a raise for the first time in recent memory in the first budget tabled by Manitoba's new Progressive Conservative government.

The $13.5-billion budget, which posts a $911-million deficit, cuts the number of seniors who can take advantage of the education property tax rebate in half by tying it to income.

Low-income households earning less than $40,000 a year are to continue to get the rebate, while seniors making between $40,000 and $63,500 are to see the refund cut by an average of $100.

Seniors earning more than $63,500 won't get the rebate cheque at all. The changes will net the province about $44 million a year.

"Tax policy must be principled," Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said Tuesday. "Those seniors who actually need the support will continue to receive it."

For the first time in 17 years, there was no mention of minimum-wage earners in the budget and no commitment to give them a raise in the fall. Manitoba's current minimum wage is $11 a hour, which puts it near the middle of the pack among provinces.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the government is helping low-income earners by increasing personal income tax brackets and tying them to the rate of inflation starting next year.

"What it will do is leave more money in the hands of Manitobans who want that money in their hands," he said.

Advocates say that change will leave low-income earners about $16 richer annually compared with about $400 they would see from an hourly raise based on inflation. Molly McCracken with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives hailed the changes to the seniors tax rebate, but said the tax changes for low-income earners are "really a drop in the bucket."

"It's very disappointing," she said. "With the cost of food going up, the cost of housing going up, people are going to be paying more on their very limited income."

The budget makes good on a few key promises made by the Conservatives in the runup to the April election, which saw the NDP swept from office after 17 years. The government plans to start reducing ambulance fees by allocating an extra $22 million for emergency response and transport services.

"Manitobans should never be forced to choose between paying high ambulance fees and receiving the emergency medical attention they need," said Friesen, who promised to cut the fees in half over four years.

The government is also killing the per-vote subsidy worth about $600,000 a year for political parties. The Tories never collected their share but it will hurt opposition party coffers.

The PCs made tax-cutting a cornerstone of their election campaign and the budget contains no new taxes or tax increases.

The Conservatives, who had refused to say when they would balance the books, are now predicting it will take at least eight years to bring the province back into the black. The goal is practical given people don't want to see service cuts as the province lowers taxes, Pallister said.

"We want to make sure we strike the right balance."

This year's budget includes modest funding increases for most departments, but boosts the Department of Families by 10 per cent, or almost $200 million. That includes about a 4.5 per cent increase for Child and Family Services, which is struggling with a record number of children in care.

Interim NDP Leader Flor Marcelino said she is concerned the budget didn't address affordable housing and a shortage of child-care spaces.

"We're concerned with what's not in there," she said.

Still, others see the changes to tax brackets as a good first step.

"They're showing that they care about taxpayers," said Todd McKay of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "On the down side, we're not seeing enough spending control yet ... You just cannot balance a budget without trimming spending."


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

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

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

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

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us