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Tory minister says Manitoba’s NDP government has ‘spending problem’

St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover at an announcement in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Kurt Brownridge / Global News

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s top federal politician says the province’s NDP government has a “spending problem” and should stop “blaming everyone else” for its financial difficulties.

St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover, who is also Minister of Canadian Heritage in the Stephen Harper government, was responding to questions Wednesday about the province’s claim that a mistake in the 2011 census could wind up costing Manitoba money from federal transfer payments, and that the shortfall could prevent Premier Greg Selinger’s government from keeping its promise to balance the province’s budget by 2016-17.

“Manitobans know this Conservative government, federally, will do everything in its power to reduce taxes,” Glover said at an unrelated announcement  when asked about the province’s claim. “We’ve done our part. I believe the province of Manitoba, they don’t have anything but a spending problem and they need to address that and stop blaming everyone else.”

Glover also accused the Selinger government of making joint spending promises it can’t keep.

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“They continue to make promises it seems weekly on different infrastructure projects … and making comments that they believe we will be injecting money,” Glover said. “We need to work collaboratively.”

Manitoba Finance Minister Jennifer Howard complained this week that the 2011 census failed to account for 18,000 Manitobans, possibly because the head count was disrupted by flooding in the province that year. Since federal transfer payments to provinces are based on population, Howard says Manitoba could lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in transfers from Ottawa over the next five years.

But Statistics Canada, which conducts the census, stands by its numbers.

Jane Badets, a director general with Statistics Canada, said Manitoba actually had one of the highest response rates in Canada in the 2011 census. Still, the agency expects to miss a certain number of people in each census, she said.

“We had a good response rate in Manitoba,” Badets said. “We do miss some. We know that. It’s no different than any other census. We use the same methods we’ve ever used.”

Howard continued Wednesday to insist Manitoba is being shortchanged.

“It’s counter to what we know in terms of the number of people filing taxes in Manitoba. That’s gone up at a higher rate than StatsCan is saying the census has. There is an error here and we need it to be corrected.”

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Global News requested a response to Glover’s comments Wednesday from Selinger. There was no immediate response.

— With files from Canadian Press

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