NDP member’s bill seeks better measure of budget impact

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While the Progressive Conservative government says its 2022-23 budget will allow Manitobans to keep more of their money, critics say some will benefit at the expense others and that needs to be accounted for on the balance sheet.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/04/2022 (238 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

While the Progressive Conservative government says its 2022-23 budget will allow Manitobans to keep more of their money, critics say some will benefit at the expense others and that needs to be accounted for on the balance sheet.

A private member’s bill introduced Wednesday would require the minister of finance to report on the effects of the government’s budget decisions on economic and social inclusion and greenhouse gas emissions in Manitoba.

“These decisions aren’t neutral, and there’s winners and losers on budget day,” said NDP finance critic Mark Wasyliw, who wants future budgets to make that clear.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Clearly stating who is and isn’t benefiting from budget decisions will help ‘hold the government to account,’ says NDP critic Mark Wasyliw.

“And, if we have that kind of reporting, it would be very clear and it would hold the government to account.”

The proposed Budget Impact Reporting Act echoes the federal Canadian Gender Budgeting Act passed in 2018, but goes a step further and would require the budget show the impact it will have on income inequality and Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you look at this year’s budget, you have a property tax cut that’s going to help large commercial landlords and the Brian Pallisters of this world and the Heather Stefansons of this world,” Wasyliw said.

The education property tax rebate is increased to 37 per cent from 25 per cent for residential and farm properties. It will save some Manitobans a total of $350 million this year, while cash-strapped school divisions are squeezed and post-secondary students face rising tuition fees and living costs and have to tighten their belts, he said.

“It’s the huge property owners who are going to disproportionately suck up the lion’s share of the (education property tax rebate).”

The 40 per cent of Manitobans who are renters, meanwhile, saw their education property tax credit reduced to $525 from $700 in last year’s budget.

“Most of these budget decisions are going to help the highest-income earners and they won’t actually do anything for affordability or for the people that are actually struggling,” said the member for Fort Garry.

Last year’s removal of the PST on haircuts that cost $50 or more is a “classic example” of budgetary winners and losers, Wasyliw said Thursday. “If you look at who’s getting $50-plus haircuts, it will be high-income earners who benefit, and that gets sort of obscured.”

The recent federal budget aimed to remove some of that obscurity. It was accompanied by a 152-page “Statement on Gender Equality and Diversity in Canada,” which showed 42 per cent of budget measures are expected to directly or indirectly benefit men, while only 14 per cent will directly or indirectly benefit women.

“This relative disparity reflects the fact that men are over-represented in certain sectors benefiting from many of the climate and infrastructure related measures in this budget,” the statement said.

Manitoba should go a step further and show how its budgets impact social inclusion and greenhouse gas emissions, Wasyliw said.

The budget for Environment, Parks and Climate is $168 million — a two per cent increase from last year — and contains “next to nothing for anything with respect to action on climate change,” said Green Party of Manitoba Leader James Beddome.

The budget lists a variety of programs, including $50 million over two years for cleaning up abandoned mine sites but nothing meaningful to address greenhouse gas emissions or that is close to the scale needed for Manitoba to pivot to a sustainable economy, said Beddome.

Manitobans should see how budgetary measures impact greenhouse gas emissions and other policy priorities, he said. “Having a gender analysis, a climate change analysis, an Indigenous reconciliation analysis, with each policy put in place, makes a lot of sense.”

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen was not available to comment Thursday.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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