October 23, 2019

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High-income tax hike, controlled spending part of Manitoba NDP campaign plan

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks to media following the delivery of Manitoba's 2019 budget, at the Legislative Building in Winnipeg, on March 7, 2019. Manitoba New Democrats are promising to raise income taxes on high earners, boost the minimum wage and implement modest health care spending increases if they win the Sept. 10 provincial election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks to media following the delivery of Manitoba's 2019 budget, at the Legislative Building in Winnipeg, on March 7, 2019. Manitoba New Democrats are promising to raise income taxes on high earners, boost the minimum wage and implement modest health care spending increases if they win the Sept. 10 provincial election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

WINNIPEG - Manitoba New Democrats are promising to raise income taxes on high earners, boost the minimum wage and implement modest health-care spending increases if they win the Sept. 10 provincial election.

The Opposition party released broad strokes of its campaign platform Thursday, with a promise to reveal details later. The document includes plans for a higher tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year.

"I feel like if you earn a quarter of a million dollars a year in Manitoba, you didn't do that by yourself. You benefited from having infrastructure, from health care," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

"And I think that you should feel good about contributing back to ensuring that the next generation has a strong health-care system, has the infrastructure that they need to grow the economy in the future."

Kinew said the NDP looked at raising corporate income tax as well, but decided against it in order to remain competitive with other provinces. Instead, the platform promises a tax cut for small businesses. The threshold at which they start to pay income tax would rise to $550,000 from $500,000.

The 17-page platform promises to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $11.35, and to implement an unspecified price on carbon. The Progressive Conservative government withdrew a planned $25-per-tonne tax, prompting the federal government to impose its tax that will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Much of the NDP's focus will be on health care. The platform pledges to reopen two hospital emergency departments that the Tories recently closed in Winnipeg. A NDP government would also hire more nurses, fund more hospital beds and increase spending on addiction treatment and health prevention, Kinew said.

The NDP said the health-care changes would cost between $30 million and $43 million a year, an increase in the health budget of less than one per cent.

The NDP would also lift a public-sector wage freeze that the government imposed, although the platform does not include any cost for that measure.

Kinew said the NDP would balance the budget by 2024 — the same time frame promised by the Tories — while also raising welfare rates, boosting funding for municipal transit and limiting post-secondary tuition increases.

The Tories called Kinew's plan unreliable. Finance Minister Scott Fielding pointed to the last NDP government, which missed promised deadlines to balance the budget despite raising the provincial sales tax, the fuel tax and other levies.

"The NDP cannot be believed on things like balanced budgets. We know the track record that they have," Fielding said.

Recent opinion polls suggest the Tories continue to lead their opponents province-wide, but the race is tighter in Winnipeg, where health-care changes have been more pronounced.

Premier Brian Pallister has yet to formally launch the election campaign and must do so by Tuesday under provincial law.

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