WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was non-committal Tuesday about whether he will maintain tax credits and rebates for the film industry and post-secondary students as he strives to balance the budget.
Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government is set to deliver a budget next week aimed at reducing the deficit, and would not directly respond to accusations from the Opposition New Democrats that tax credits may be on the chopping block.
“A frequent technique of opposition parties is to float ideas and try to get the details of a budget released before the budget is released,” Pallister said.
“So I would choose to just let the budget do the talking on these issues.”
NDP education critic Wab Kinew said the government may be set to reduce or eliminate two tax measures for post-secondary students. One is an income-tax rebate, worth up to $25,000 over 10 years, for graduates who remain in Manitoba after finishing college or university. The other is an income-tax credit worth up to $400 a month for full-time students.
“We have reason to believe that these tax credits are under review,” Kinew said.
Kinew pointed to a recent report from a Toronto-based think-tank, Higher Education Strategy Associates, that said the province could save $67 million a year by eliminating the two tax measures. The report suggested the province divert the money to targeted aid for low-income, rural and indigenous students.
Pallister was also questioned by reporters on the future of tax credits used to lure movie and television productions to the province. Some other provinces, including British Columbia last year, have reduced their credits because they were draining increasing amounts of money from provincial coffers.
Pallister said all programs are being reviewed as part of his plan to tackle a string of deficits started by the former NDP government in 2010. The Tories have promised to balance the budget by 2024 by controlling the growth in spending and finding efficiencies.
Part of that process, Pallister said, is reviewing whether government programs are providing good value.
“We’re going to look for results to be achieved from the investments we make because we’re handling Manitobans’ hard-earned money and we think that should be handled respectfully.”