Most Manitobans would like the next government to spend more on public services, even if it means the provincial budget would take longer to balance, a recent poll finds.
A Probe Research poll, commissioned by the Free Press and CTV News Winnipeg, found 62 per cent of Manitobans agreed "the government needs to increase spending on services," regardless of the effect on the time needed to get the province out of the red. The remainder felt the budget should be balanced as soon as possible.
Last week, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said, if re-elected Sept. 10, he’d balance the budget faster than anticipated, pledging to do so by 2022.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew has pledged to balance the budget during his first term — a vow that has been echoed by the Manitoba Liberals.
Since his election as premier in 2016, Pallister has made fiscal prudence and austerity his key focus, Probe principal Curtis Brown says. However, this poll casts doubt as to whether those priorities align with the wishes of many Manitobans.
"(A hastily balanced budget) has been a major focus for the last few years, but the majority of Manitobans don’t think it needs to be," Brown said.
Though 72 per cent of Torysupporters — along with 43 per cent of rural Manitobans and 51 per cent of those with a high school education or less — would prefer a balanced budget over increased public spending, most everyone else disagrees.
About two-thirds of Winnipeg residents, women and university graduates think the government should spend more on social services. That trend follows amongst other parties’ supporters: NDP (91), Green (81) and Liberal (78).
Those results align with party tendencies, Brown said, but might indicate a need for the PCs to tamp back their aggression toward those ends.
"They have to be careful how hard they push," he said. "They’re going to get knocked for austerity measures, and they have by opponents, but they’re benefiting from the fact (Manitobans who’d prefer to take longer to balance the budget) aren’t all supporting one party."
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.