The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities say the budget hit the right notes — or at least not too many sour ones.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities say the budget hit the right notes — or at least not too many sour ones.

"It felt like a transitional budget, whereby they're touching on a number of areas, but in a light way because they're waiting to see how the next few weeks, months and year ahead start to take shape," said Winnipeg chamber CEO Loren Remillard.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding's pledge to launch a "tax-competitiveness review" will mark the first time since 1999 that Manitoba has done a line-by-line review of the tax system, Remillard said.

The budget called for $62 million in retraining and e-commerce programs, and $25 million in youth job initiatives. Remillard said the city needs those measures for "a digital main street in Manitoba" where small and medium-sized business can do business online.

He praised the cut to the payroll tax, noting Manitoba is one of few jurisdictions with such a tax. Wednesday's budget raises the threshold for that tax to $1.75 million in payroll from $1.5 million.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities said the budget wasn't as bad as reeves and mayors had expected, given the cash crunch faced by governments.

"We have to manage our expectations accordingly," said association president Kam Blight, reeve of the RM of Portage la Prairie.

"It could have been worse."

The group had hoped for more money for rural broadband, and said the province needs to go beyond pledging to follow the infrastructure program shared with the federal government and make sure cash is handed out quickly.

"That is something that municipalities are absolutely counting on, and we cannot afford to miss another construction season," Blight said.

"We’re coming up on the summertime here already, and we’ve really considered that we’re going to miss another construction season. We missed it last year and we sure as heck can't miss it this year, because this is huge to the economic recovery process."

But he was encouraged that the PCs plan to hold the line on general grants to municipalities.

"We certainly appreciate that our municipal basket funding has not been decreased as an outcome of this pandemic," Blight said.

A $5.6-million sustainable communities fund should help with overdue sewage projects.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"

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