‘Manitoba is staring down a $1 billion deficit’: Finance Minister

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‘Manitoba is staring down a $1 billion deficit’: Finance Minister
WATCH: Global's Heather Steele talks with University of Winnipeg politics professor, Allen Mills about what the $1 billion deficit means for Manitobans. – May 18, 2016

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government says the province’s deficit has surpassed $1 billion.

That’s $346 million over what the NDP government estimated on March 8, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said at a media conference Wednesday.

WATCH: Global’s Sean Leslie explores the $1 billion deficit Manitoba faces

Click to play video: '‘Manitoba is staring down a $1 billion deficit’: Finance Minister'
‘Manitoba is staring down a $1 billion deficit’: Finance Minister

“I wish the NDP had been more accurate on the reports they provided 10 weeks ago,” said Friesen.

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When the NDP provided that financial update, they said the province was running a $663 million deficit. Frisen said the number is up 52 per cent than what was initially disclosed.

WATCH: Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says the province is more than $1 billion in debt

This comes two days after the Progressive Conservative government gave Manitobans a warning in the throne speech that the province is facing “significant fiscal challenges.”

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“They made commitments in terms of additional spending that were totally unsupportable by the ability of Manitobans to pay for them,” said Premier Brian Pallister Monday at a media conference.

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However, the NDP believe this is a strategy of the PC government.

“We do expect them to do what they have traditionally done before, which is to run a large deficit early and blame it on the previous government,” said former premier Greg Selinger.

Minister Cameron Friesen did not provide a breakdown as to how they’ve arrived at the deficit number, but said he’s confident in it.

Keeping promises

The Tories campaigned on the promise to lower the provincial sales tax from eight per cent to seven by 2020. Friesen it will be “a challenge” to keep this promise but the government plans to “get it done.”

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READ MORE: Six promises Manitoba Premier-elect Brian Pallister made during campaign

The party also promised to reduce the deficit by an estimated $21.9 million in the first year in office.

When asked whether this was still possible, Friesen did not release any details. He only said government is “crunching numbers” and they have pledges they plan to keep.

The finance minister also failed to talk about what kind of cuts may take place. He said the information should be released with the budget, which will be unveiled at the end of May.

Budget released May 31

A budget will be released May 31 and Pallister has indicated it will include measures to reduce ambulance fees across the province and boost funding for tourism.

“This is a $15 billion budget, but if we can work hard with Manitobans, we can get there. It will take time and effort,” said Friesen.

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