A balanced budget, a break for small businesses and a bigger tax burden for the wealthiest one per cent.
Those are among the promises Manitoba's NDP makes in its costed campaign platform, released Thursday. The party's platform is divided into three main pillars: repairing health care, creating jobs and making life more affordable for citizens.
If elected to government Sept. 10, the NDP says it would balance the budget within four years — as the Progressive Conservatives plan to do — and aims to have a $500,000 in the bank in 2023-24.
"(The plan) actually shows us balancing the budget in the same timeline (Premier Brian) Pallister has proposed. However, we’re not going to do it on the backs of health-care workers," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
"We’re not going to do it on the backs of Manitoba families. We’re going to balance the books by solving the climate crisis and fixing the health-care system."
The party based its fiscal projections on the figures in Budget 2019 and made 56 broad campaign commitments, which it will outline with more details in the weeks ahead.
Building on the 2019-20 budget totals, the NDP would invest $69.4 million more in 2020-21, $100.8 million in 2021-22, $107.5 million in 2022-23 and $129.7 million in 2023-24, with the majority of spending on jobs and sustainable growth.
Kinew said the NDP intends to increase taxes on the top one per cent of Manitobans who earn more than $250,000 annually, but seemed to walk back points he's made in the past about taxing large corporations.
Help for small businesses would arrive in the form of an increased tax-threshold exemption from $500,000 to $550,000 per year.
"We need to remain competitive when it comes to corporate income taxes. We also concluded because we’re going to be doing things like increasing the minimum wage (from $11.35 to $15 per hour), we need to increase the small-business exemption so that we give small-business owners a break," Kinew said.
The NDP would keep the provincial sales tax at seven per cent. The Tories rolled it back from eight per cent July 1.
In health care, the NDP would reopen the emergency wards at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals, hire more nurses, add more beds, give northern Manitobans better access to obstetrics programs and to Lifeflight air ambulances. As well, it would increase mental-health services, double the number of counsellors in access centres and appoint a minister responsible for mental health and addictions.
The NDP would create 50,000 infrastructure-related jobs over four years. And while Kinew wouldn't reveal any specific projects the party proposes to build yet, he said transit, flood mitigation, highways and hospitals are all areas needing investment.
To find savings, the party would reduce government's discretionary spending by two per cent, hire fewer consultants, reduce bureaucracy within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and end the province's social investment bond program, along with other measures.
At an afternoon press conference, Progressive Conservative MLAs Scott Fielding and Heather Stefanson urged Manitobans not to believe the NDP's numbers.
"The NDP say they’ll balance the books or balance the budget, but the NDP have a long history of saying one thing and doing something completely different in office, whether that be on taxes or whether that be on spending," Fielding said, while also touting his government's success.
"You know what you have in terms of Conservative government, in terms of many years of getting the job done (and) fixing the finances of the Province of Manitoba. And if we’re able to fix the finances, what that means is we can make more investments in health and education," he said.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont likened the NDP's platform to an "austerity budget" and said it showed little detail on how the party's promises would be paid for.
"For a document that has so many bullet points, it’s not really clear that there are any major priorities or a willingness to really put effort into dealing with some of the really major changes that Manitoba needs," he said, noting the province's need for a "significant and sustained" investment in infrastructure to improve the economy.
After previously saying the Liberals wouldn't commit to releasing a costed platform, Lamont said the Grits would "be putting something out" about their fiscal plans during the campaign period.
"We're still working on the platform as well as some of the costing issues," he said. "There's number-crunching involved and everything else."
Manitobans head to the polls Sept. 10.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, August 8, 2019 at 4:57 PM CDT: Updated, adds document