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This article was published 22/9/2016 (1581 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Brian Pallister promised his government will soon launch what he claims will be the first really genuine and sincere pre-budget consultation the province has seen.

Several times saying he needs "all hands on deck", Pallister outlined this week's series of NDP-inspired financial woes during a Thursday press conference: the now-cancelled liquor and lotteries headquarters, lack of oversight of the East Side Road Authority spending, the expected doubling of Manitoba Hydro's debt because of "wrong" decisions to build the west side Bipole III transmission line and the Keeyask generating station.

Pallister said he's very concerned about the potential for Hydro's debt further driving down the province's credit rating: "You can only dig that hole down so far, and then it's a spiral," he warned.

"We've had a chance to reflect on (the NDP government's) not listening," Pallister said. "I'm admitting, I'm a pretty big guy, but I can't do it alone. Manitobans are common sense people -- I'm asking those people to get involved."

Pallister said that Finance MInister Cameron Friesen will provide details next week and comment on the financial situation in which Manitoba now finds itself.

The NDP held what purported to be pre-budget consultation, Pallister scoffed, but they were marketing exercises intended to sell the NDP agenda without listening to Manitobans: "They weren't genuine consultation."

Pallister was careful to be vague and non-committal about any possibility that the province's financial situation would affect his ability to deliver on campaign promises.

The Conservatives still intend to balance the budget in their eighth year in office, he said, and they will "absolutely" reduce the provincial sales tax to seven per cent.

The debt load Hydro faces because of the NDP's megaprojects is shocking, Pallister said: "That's pretty bleak."

But when the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries board cancelled the $75 million headquarters plan in the Medical Arts Building on Kennedy Street, "That's not bleak, that's hopeful," Pallister insisted.

Pallister said he remains steadfast in his belief that frontline workers and frontline services must be protected, though he continues to define those categories. "I don't want to speculate on what the pre-budget consultation and the (value for money audit) performance review will be.

"We have to get our finances fixed," Pallister said. "The number one determinant of economic growth isn't how much government has to spend, it's how much people have to spend."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca