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What to expect from the Manitoba budget: Cost-control, possible privatization analyst says

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What to expect from the Manitoba budget – Apr 11, 2017

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government is expected to present its budget Tuesday afternoon, and privatization of government services and cuts to tax credits could be on the table.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen, who introduced legislation to freeze public-sector wages last month, said more spending restraint will be featured in the budget as the government tackles an $8721-million deficit left by the former NDP government.

“The budget will be about a road map toward deficit reduction,” Richard Cloutier, political insider and 680 CJOB anchor said.

“The theme of the budget is that Manitoba does not really have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” he said.

The Tories were elected last year on a promise to end a string of deficits under the former NDP government and balance the books by 2024. Friesen said that can be done by controlling the growth in spending every year rather than by imposing deep cuts.

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Infrastructure

Spending on provincial infrastructure may not be as ambitious as the previous NDP government, Cloutier said. But Premier Brian Pallister did run on the promise to continue investing in key roads, hospitals and schools.

Cloutier said there could be more public-private partnerships in the coming months and years ahead as the government tries to find more creative ways to save money.

Asylum seekers

Although there are a lot of cuts on the way, there will be selective spending, Cloutier said. The province is expected to invest in assistance (housing and rental) for asylum seekers who are trying to stay in Canada.

Tax credits

Cloutier said the government is committed to look at the entire tax credit strategy – meaning Manitobans could be seeing fewer tax credits for film and university.

“If you’re in the film industry, you’re bracing for something this afternoon. It might be the first of several shoes to drop,” Cloutier said.

Healthcare

There will be a slight increase in healthcare budget, but lower than what the province usually gets. Ultimately, there be some cuts, Cloutier said.

He added it’s possible the government is moving towards a more “privitization” model for healthcare and contracting out services.

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READ MORE: ‘Doing nothing was not an option’: 3 Winnipeg emergency rooms closing down

Last week, the government announced it would close three of Winnipeg’s six hospital emergency rooms and convert them to centres of less-urgent care.

With files from the Canadian Press

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