Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/7/2019 (338 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Liberal Party has unleashed a flurry of pre-election promises in recent weeks. The official election call isn’t expected until mid-August, but an eager Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont has already issued a wide range of campaign-style commitments, most of which would require significant spending increases.
Among them, the Liberals have pledged to "rebuild" Manitoba’s health-care system, create a new provincial police force, fund new addictions programs, establish an anti-gang strategy, increase funding to municipalities and restore 50/50 funding to transit.
Those are just some of their early promises. The campaign hasn’t even started yet.
The problem is, the Liberals have refused to say how they would pay for these proposed initiatives. Mr. Lamont has said he won’t commit to releasing a full costing of the party’s election platform, which raises serious questions about the credibility of the Liberal plan.
Parties typically release cost and revenue estimates during election campaigns to show voters they have a realistic and achievable plan. That the Liberals are declining to do so suggests they haven’t done their due diligence.
Mr. Lamont argues his party decided against costing out its campaign platform because they don’t trust the Pallister government’s accounting figures.
That’s a cop-out. There are reliable and independently audited financial statements available to anyone interested in examining the province’s books. Based on those, and on updated quarterly statements from Manitoba Finance, there’s nothing stopping parties from presenting well-researched cost and revenue estimates to support their campaign platforms.
The Liberals also promised last weekend they would create an independent commission to simplify the tax system and to ensure everyone "pays their fair share" of taxes. However, beyond vague claims that some individuals and corporations aren’t paying their fair share, it’s unclear what specifically the Liberals are proposing. Their terms of reference are, at best, fuzzy and undefined.
For example, Mr. Lamont says he wants to make Manitoba’s tax system "more progressive." Like all provinces, Manitoba has a progressive income tax system in which rising incomes are subject to higher rates of taxation.
In fact, Manitoba has the highest marginal tax rate — 17.4 per cent — of any province west of Ontario. Manitoba also charges that rate at a lower income level than most other jurisdictions.
If Mr. Lamont believes he can reduce the province’s $360–million deficit by eliminating what he calls “tax loopholes,” he should provide facts and figures to make his case. Otherwise, like most of what his party has announced to date, it’s little more than a pipe dream.
Are the Liberals proposing to widen the tax gap further to make the tax system even more "progressive"? If so, what would that do to Manitoba’s competitiveness? These are important questions that have so far gone unanswered by the Liberals. Mr. Lamont’s stock response is that he doesn’t want to prejudge the outcome of the proposed commission.
The Liberals suggest the provincial deficit could be reduced if people and corporations simply paid their fair share of taxes. However, the party has so far failed to provide any projections to support that claim, such as estimates of lost revenues due to tax avoidance.
If Mr. Lamont believes he can reduce the province’s $360-million deficit by eliminating what he calls "tax loopholes," he should provide facts and figures to make his case. Otherwise, like most of what his party has announced to date, it’s little more than a pipe dream.
If Manitoba’s Liberals wish to be viewed as a serious alternative to the province’s current government, they should give Manitobans a seriously detailed platform to consider.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.