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Manitoba 150 party price tag too rich for some: poll

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Manitoba Legislature is lit up to celebrate Manitoba 150 in early December 2019.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The Manitoba Legislature is lit up to celebrate Manitoba 150 in early December 2019.

Most Manitobans know about the 150th anniversary party the province is throwing itself this year, but not everyone is happy about the cost.

That’s clear from the results of a Probe Research poll commissioned by the Free Press, in which 41 per cent of respondents said the $50 million earmarked for building projects and celebrations is too rich for their blood.

And, perhaps, too rich for Premier Brian Pallister’s, after more than three years of provincial government austerity measures focused on shrinking the province’s debt; something he and his Progressive Conservative administration have relentlessly blamed on wasteful spending by the NDP reign that preceded them.

Probe asked 1,000 Manitobans whether they were aware of the planned Manitoba 150 celebrations and what they make of the amount that will be spent.

Nearly half — 49 per cent — said the province is spending enough. One-tenth said the party budget could be bigger.

 

"There is a knee-jerk reaction that voters have and citizens have, that the government is probably spending too much on a thing," said Mary Agnes Welch, a principal with the polling firm.

"Especially at a time of budget austerity."

The provincial government has set aside $45 million for building upgrades and $5 million for celebration events; the private sector is contributing an additional $2 million for celebrations.

More women (51 per cent) than men (31 per cent) expressed concern with the dollar figure.

Welch said Manitobans’ thoughts on spending may change as they become aware of more events and notice signage.

The poll results show almost three-quarters of Manitobans are aware of the 150-year anniversary of the province joining Confederation. Of that number, 41 per cent said they were "very aware."

"Those are some pretty strong numbers," Welch said.

 

Baby boomers were twice as aware as millennials, and people with higher levels of education were more aware, which Welch said correlates with people who follow the news.

Stuart Murray, co-chairman of the Manitoba 150 host committee, said his team of volunteers has been boosting programming under brands such as Learn 150 and Illuminate 150 to drive the message home to residents.

"We’re trying to use that 150 monicker as often as we can," Murray said. "People are really understanding that the 150 number coincides… with that anniversary."

Murray said while Manitoba 150 merchandise has been popular thus far, organizers have tried to focus more on experiences than on posters and stickers.

Probe found almost half of Manitobans between the ages of 18 and 34 felt too much was being spent, compared with 36 per cent of people over 54. Welch suspects that’s because older people remember the centennial building boom in the late 1960s.

“I think we’re going to deliver tremendous value to the people of Manitoba.” –Stuart Murray, co–chair of the Manitoba 150 host committee

"Young people probably don’t have a sense of what the country and the provinces do for big birthdays," Welch said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Manitoba 150 co-chairs Stuart Murray (right) and Monique LaCoste in fall 2019.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Manitoba 150 co-chairs Stuart Murray (right) and Monique LaCoste in fall 2019.

Murray noted the $2 million companies have donated — and from community foundations’ requests for a share of the cash — is evidence of support.

"We’ve been able to raise that money from the private sector that we will be putting that money back into the province in a very substantive way," he said.

"I think we’re going to deliver tremendous value to the people of Manitoba."

Premier Brian Pallister called last fall’s provincial election a year earlier than mandated by legislation and within weeks of a federal vote because he said Manitobans wouldn’t appreciate being distracted by a political campaign during anniversary events.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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