NDP could prevent Manitobans from enjoying promised tax cuts, other budget items, Tory finance minister warns
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The Progressive Conservative finance minister said Friday that if the NDP delays the implementation of his budget until after the house rises on June 1 and the Oct. 3 election, Manitobans looking forward to promised tax relief may be disappointed.
Cliff Cullen introduced the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act Friday, the regulatory means for implementing Tuesday’s budget, and stressed the timeliness of its passage.
“If we get the budget passed by June 1, Manitobans can start seeing the tax reductions on their paycheques beginning in July,” Cullen told reporters after question period.
“The tax reduction in terms of the basic personal amount takes place right away once this bill is passed,” the finance minister said.
He said the exemption works out to $50 a month in savings.
“We want to make sure everyone fully understands those tax-cut savings will take place this year,” Cullen said.
“If the legislation doesn’t pass there’s all kinds of other things that won’t be implemented — hearing aids for seniors, for example.”
The government announced earlier this month that it will begin accepting applications in the spring to provide grants of up to $2,000 for hearing aids to seniors whose annual income is under $80,000.
“It’s up to the opposition if they decide that they’re going to hold this up,” Cullen said.
The rules of the legislature allow the opposition to delay five bills from proceeding to second reading until the fall. With the fall session set to begin after the election, a change in government could bring an end to the Tories’ budget promises.
The NDP wouldn’t say Friday if it plans to hold over the implementation of the budget until after March 14 when the government is expected to have introduced all of its new legislation for the spring session. The NDP then has to announce by April 17 the five government bills that it plans to delay.
“At this point we look forward to seeing all the legislation as it comes forward and we’ll be making that determination later,” NDP finance critic Adrien Sala told reporters.
The member for St. James said it appears that the Tories’ pitch to voters is if they don’t re-elect a Progressive Conservative government, they won’t get their tax cuts.
“We can see that the PCs are trying to set up that kind of a situation but Manitobans have seven years worth of reasons to know not to trust this government,” Sala said. “We think Manitobans want a better alternative and we look forward to bringing forward our plan at a later date… and debating the BITSA bill in the house.”
Deciding to pass or delay the government’s budget implementation bill poses a dilemma for the NDP, said veteran political analyst Paul Thomas.
“BITSA contains tax provisions the NDP might favour, like the higher threshold for when personal income tax kicks in, and others they might oppose, like cuts to the corporate payroll tax,” said the University of Manitoba political studies professor emeritus.
“To allow tax benefits to flow to voters, the NDP could approve the budget by the June 1 date. However, to identify its disagreements with government fiscal policy, it could speak against certain measures, proposes amendments, and promise to reverse certain changes should they win office.”
Thomas pointed to a precedent in 1999 when the NDP were also in opposition facing a similar situation.
The Gary Doer-led party voted to support Gary Filmon’s 1999 budget, citing the Progressive Conservative premier’s decision to increase health spending with money from a provincial rainy-day fund.
Doer also promised to replace an income tax cut favouring higher-income earners with a property tax cut.
“Some of the party faithful challenged this tactic, saying the party should have voted against the PCs’ desperate billion-dollar boondoggle of tax cuts and new spending,” Thomas said.
The NDP, which had been in opposition since 1988, won the provincial election that year.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.