September 16, 2019

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Promises, promises...

The Free Press refresher on the PC, NDP, Liberal and Green key planks and their pledges on the economy, health care and education

After a month of campaigning, election day is just one day away; polls across Manitoba open Tuesday at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Prior to the legislature's dissolution Aug. 12, there were 38 Progressive Conservative MLAs, 12 NDP, four Liberal and three independents.

The Free Press has compiled this refresher of each party's promises.

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES

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After a month of campaigning, election day is just one day away; polls across Manitoba open Tuesday at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Prior to the legislature's dissolution Aug. 12, there were 38 Progressive Conservative MLAs, 12 NDP, four Liberal and three independents.

The Free Press has compiled this refresher of each party's promises.

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES

Key storyline: Though pre-election polls point to a win by the Progressive Conservatives, there's strong evidence to suggest a Tory victory won’t be as decisive as the one that ushered Brian Pallister into the premier’s office in 2016.

Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Leader Brian Pallister with his wife Esther.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Leader Brian Pallister with his wife Esther.

A "blue wave" led the Conservatives to 17 seats in Winnipeg, a vast improvement over the four they won in 2011. But polls show the NDP and PCs in a virtual dead-heat for support in the city.

Can the Conservatives retain their seats in Winnipeg? The answer will likely determine whether Pallister scores a majority and, if so, how big that majority is.

Platform's key planks:

• Lower taxes — The PCs have focused on a series of tax cuts, including the removal of the PST from home insurance, haircuts and financial-document preparation fees. The party says it would phase out education property taxes within 10 years. Pallister says he'll balance the provincial budget by 2022, which is earlier than he had promised before the election campaign. After winning in 2016 on a campaign of austerity, he's hoping lightning strikes twice.

Voter's guide to election day in Manitoba

Click to Expand
A polling station to vote in the Manitoba election in Winnipeg.
A polling station to vote in the Manitoba election in Winnipeg.

Posted: 09/09/2019 5:43 PM

The Winnipeg Free Press won’t tell you who to vote for, but it will offer assistance in getting your ballot cast on election day.

The 42nd Manitoba general election is Tuesday, to elect 57 representatives to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

Read Full Story

• Jobs — The party pledges to add 40,000 private-sector jobs by 2024.

Other main planks:

 Economy — Pallister’s promises include establishing a 10-year strategic capital plan, as well as implementing faster permitting systems and establishing an economic development office in Brandon. The PCs also pledged $3 million to boost tourism, and an eight per cent increase in film tax credits. The platform focuses on continuing to slash taxes, which the party says would save the average taxpayer $505 a year for four years.

  Health care — The Tories have pledged an additional $2 billion in health-care spending during their term. About $90 million of that would go toward a new emergency department at St. Boniface Hospital, while the remainder is earmarked for capital projects and spending increases. The party promised to hire 200 full-time nurses and 80 rural paramedics. Pallister was heavily criticized for changes to the health-care system, including the closures of the emergency rooms at Victoria, Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals.

 Education — The party's education plan is centred on building 13 schools in the province over the next decade, including eight in Winnipeg, at an estimated cost of $130 million over four years. The Conservatives would implement a $25-million "teachers’ idea fund" to improve literacy and numeracy. And there is a promise to expand scholarships and bursaries by $3.25 million.

 

NDP

Key storyline: This election is extremely important for the NDP and its leader, Wab Kinew. Kinew has emerged as Pallister’s main competition, and is hoping to lead his party to a rebound from its resounding defeat in 2016, when its number of seats dropped to 14 from 35 and resulted in Greg Selinger quitting as leader; Selinger later resigned as St. Boniface MLA and the party lost MLA Mohinder Saran after harassment allegations surfaced, leaving the party with only 12 in its caucus. Kinew, who was not part of the previous NDP government, has worked to distance himself from its performance and infighting that led to a leadership review before the 2016 election.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

NDP Leader Wab Kinew

He has also had to deal with questions about his character and past conduct; his leadership could be in jeopardy if the party doesn't pick up seats.

Platform's key planks

• ERs — Reopen Seven Oaks and Concordia emergency departments; as part of the Tory government's health-care overhaul, three of six Winnipeg ERs were closed and converted to urgent-care centres. The NDP platform calls the closures "rushed and reckless," and Kinew has vowed to reopen two of the three and add acute-care beds at a total cost of $9.5 million.

• Carbon-tax rebate — Kinew promised each Manitoba household an annual rebate of $350 on energy bills, paid for by revenue generated from a $20-per-tonne carbon tax. The party says it would not raise the carbon-tax rate during its first term.

Other main planks

 Economy — The NDP pledged to implement a $15 hourly minimum wage by 2023 and balance the provincial budget by 2022. Also central to the NDP’s platform is a $6.64-billion commitment to infrastructure over the next four years, an injection it said would create 50,000 jobs. As well, the party would establish higher tax rates for individuals who earn more than $250,000 annually, a higher tax threshold for small businesses, and a universal basic-income model.

  Health care —The NDP’s campaign is focused largely on reversing the Pallister government’s health-care overhaul. A Kinew-led government would ban mandatory overtime for nurses, reinstate the obstetrics program in Flin Flon and invest in upgrades at the Thompson General Hospital. The party would also appoint a minister responsible for mental health and addictions. The NDP has pledged to spend $142.7 million above the current health-care budget over four years to "fix Pallister's health cuts."

 Education — The NDP promised to freeze tuition increases to the rate of inflation, which it said would make post-secondary education more affordable. Kinew vowed to restore $1 million in bursaries for rural, northern and Indigenous students after the PCs cut the program. Meanwhile, the party would restore a cap on the number of students in kindergarten-to-Grade 3 classrooms, aiming to ensure 90 per cent of early year classrooms have no more than 20 students. That would cost $18 million annually, the party said.

 

GREENS

Key storyline: The goal is, simply, to to elect its first member of Manitoba's legislature. The timing is right, as climate change and the environment are unavoidable concerns. Federally, the Greens are on the upswing: an August poll by MainStreet Research found that 11 per cent of decided and leaning voters were behind leader Elizabeth May, tying her with Jagmeet Singh of the NDP.

Green Party Leader James Beddome

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Green Party Leader James Beddome

In Manitoba, Green Leader James Beddome has unveiled an aggressive climate policy and electoral-reform promises. The great Green hope is likely David Nickarz, who is running in Wolseley, where there is no incumbent.

Platform's key planks

• Universal basic income — The Greens promise to implement a basic-income plan that would cost $1.58 billion annually. The plan would start by providing $7,200 for a single adult and $10,180 for a two-adult family, with the total decreasing to zero once single-adult income rises to $53,333 and two-adult family income reaches $75,407. The party says the program would be funded by converting tax credits to basic income tax credits.

• Pollution fee: The party would implement this $50 fee per tonne of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, that would rise by $10 each year after. The party says it would raise $487 million in revenue, of which $342 million would be used to lower the first two tax brackets from 10.8 per cent to 9.56 per cent and 12.75 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Other main planks 

 Economy — Much of the party's economic policy focuses on workers; Beddome promises to reverse the Public Services Sustainability Act, Tory legislation that included a two-year wage freeze for public-sector workers. The Greens also promise to implement a 35-hour work week and to turn Manitoba into a zero-waste province and to move away from fossil fuels completely.

  Health care — Poverty reduction is its most significant initiative in preventative health care; the introduction of a basic income, as well as increased affordable housing would reduce strain on the system, the Greens say. A 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks would reduce health-care spending by lowering the incidence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, the party says. A Green government would also push for a national pharmacare program.

 Education — Like the Tories, Greens are committed to eliminating the education property tax. Instead, the party would use a combination of corporate and personal income tax to fund schools, which it says sets its plan apart from the PCs. The party would reduce wait time for assessing students with learning disabilities so they receive early support. It would also give post-secondary students, who need financial assistance, access to a non-repayable fund.

 

LIBERALS

Key storyline: Official party status is on the line. In 2016, under then-leader Rana Bokhari, the Grits won a meagre three seats; leader Dougald Lamont later won a byelection in St. Boniface, raising the party's seat tally to the four required for official status, which increased its office budget.

Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont

Lamont, for his part, has led a well-rounded campaign, but has struggled to overtake Kinew as the top progressive choice. After Keewatinook MLA Judy Klassen ditched the provincial campaign for federal politics earlier this year, the party's number of seats fell back to three.

The pressure to retain party status is on, and the magic number for Lamont is four, though polls show the Liberals should exceed that benchmark.

Platform's key planks

• Eliminate poverty — The Liberals, through a combination of guaranteed minimum income, a $15 hourly minimum wage indexed to inflation, a voluntary public work program and welfare reforms, vow to eliminate poverty by 2024. The annual "mincome" amount is estimated at $18,000 to $19,000, with anyone whose income falls below that threshold qualifying. The collective price tag for these policies would be $700 million annually.

• Lake Winnipeg — Lamont pledged that his party would spend $5 million to upgrade Winnipeg’s North End Sewage Treatment Plant to decrease the amount of phosphorus it releases into the Red River. He also promised $500 million in "Save Lake Winnipeg" bonds, dedicated to building infrastructure to preserve the lake and wetlands across the province.

Other major planks

 Economy — The Liberals want to set up a publicly owned business development bank geared to helping Manitoba entrepreneurs. The party says it would cost $78 million in its first year. Lamont also promises to create an independent commission to review the provincial tax system, as well as an annual commitment of $1.6 billion on infrastructure for 10 years.

  Health care —The Liberals heavily emphasize the "mental" aspect of health, pledging to cover clinical psychological therapy under medicare on the strength of a $22-million funding increase, as well as funding more mental-health professionals. The Liberal health-care plan includes provisions to try to reopen the Seven Oaks, Concordia and Victoria hospital emergency rooms. Like the Greens and NDP, the Liberals would push for a national pharmacare program. And the party would shift hospital funding to a patient-based model with allocations based on the number of patients cared for and the services delivered.

 Education — The Liberals have promised to freeze post-secondary tuition at the rate of inflation with zero cuts to services. The party also pledged to restore $12 million in funding to universities and colleges cut by the Pallister government. They also promise to shift child-care responsibilities to the Department of Education and ensure literacy by Grade 2. They would spend $500,000 on a 10-year education funding plan that would gather advice from teachers, parents, students and school trustees.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

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