October 1, 2020

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Province sets pace for lower operating deficit

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/12/2019 (292 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Midway through the current fiscal year, Manitoba is on pace to post a slightly lower operating deficit than forecast, while spending on strategic infrastructure is projected to fall by $177 million.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding released his department's mid-term report Friday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Finance Minister Scott Fielding released the finance department's mid-term report Friday.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Finance Minister Scott Fielding released the finance department's mid-term report Friday.

The report, covering the period from April 1 to Sept. 30, projects an operating deficit of $350 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year — down $10 million from what Fielding projected in his March budget.

Fielding said government revenues from personal and corporate income taxes are a little higher than expected, while expenses are trending lower.

While overall infrastructure spending is down, he noted outlays for roads, bridges and flood protection are projected to come in close to budget: $603 million, rather than $605 million.

The major underspending is in the areas of health, education and housing infrastructure, the minister said. This is now projected to total $367 million, rather than $538 million.

Fielding said some projects came in under budget, such as the recently completed Women's Hospital ($32 million) and a new high school in Niverville ($3 million). A total of $4.3 million was saved by completing the new Dauphin hospital emergency room early, he said. Some $7 million will be unspent due to project delays in housing.

Fielding said the province remains on track to eliminating its deficit in 2022-23.

The government has been at odds with the provincial auditor general regarding some of its accounting practices. The government pegged its deficit last fiscal year at $163 million, while the AG said the province actually recorded a small operating surplus in 2018-19.

This year's mid-year fiscal update was far less detailed than in past years, consisting of only four pages. Normally, it is three times that length or more. Missing this year were departmental spending breakdowns and detailed information on revenues.

Fielding said the lack of detail was due to government departmental reorganization that accompanied the recent cabinet shuffle. He promised there would be more detailed information provided in the next quarterly financial report.

Meanwhile, Fielding announced a new system to track public-service performance is now up and running. The new scorecard system had been in the planning stages for two years.

It will allow Manitobans to monitor the province's progress on a wide variety of areas — from student literacy to ER wait times and the time it takes for criminal cases to come to trial — at one website.

"We'll be rolling out this system across government by the middle of next year," Fielding said.

He said New Brunswick has used a scorecard system since 2012, resulting in at least $87 million in government savings.

The system shows the specific goals the government has set for various departments and how close it is to meeting them. Information can be found at www.MBMeasuringProgress.ca.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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