An end to Sunday shopping restrictions, tax cuts highlighted Manitoba Throne Speech

Manitoba PC leader and premier Brian Pallister speaks during a press conference in Winnipeg on August 26, 2019.
Manitoba PC leader and premier Brian Pallister speaks during a press conference in Winnipeg on August 26, 2019. The Canadian Press/John Woods

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government is promising to cut taxes, hire more health-care workers and boost its crime-fighting efforts in the coming year.

The priorities – most of which were promised by the Tories in the summer election campaign – are among dozens laid out in today’s throne speech at the legislature.

The government says it plans to remove the provincial sales tax next year from salon services, tax preparation and wills, as well as cut vehicle registration fees by 10 per cent.

The Tories are also promising to hire 200 more nurses and 80 rural paramedics, and to improve services such as home care.

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To fight crime and drug addiction, the government says it plans to spend $10 million on increased police enforcement and open a sobering facility staffed by mental-health professionals.

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On the economic front, the government is promising to enhance the province’s film and video tax credit and to boost cash for tourism.

“Funding for tourism promotion will be increased by 25 per cent, with five per cent of tourism-related revenue devoted to promoting Manitoba tourism and investments,” said the throne speech read by Chief Justice Richard Chartier.

It is normally read by the lieutenant-governor, but Janice Filmon has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Manitoba government announces review of photo radar program
Manitoba government announces review of photo radar program

The Tories are also promising businesses an end to provincewide restrictions on Sunday and holiday retail shopping hours. Craft breweries are to be exempt from a government markup on items they produce and sell on site.

The legislature is also to wade into the debate over a Quebec law that bars government employees such as judges, teachers or police officers from wearing religious symbols at work.

The throne speech promises a resolution – a non-binding collective statement by legislature members – that will support the right to wear religious symbols and clothing. A similar resolution was passed by the Ontario legislature earlier this month.

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“That resolution will … express our opposition to the use of the state’s authority to restrict those freedoms,” the throne speech reads.

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The legislature is scheduled to sit for three weeks before the winter break. The Opposition New Democrats are expected to devote much of their time in question period to health care and crime.

With violence spiking this year in Winnipeg, the New Democrats say the Tories have hampered police forces by essentially freezing municipal funding.

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The province is also paying a smaller share of rising transit costs.

The pressure to loosen provincial purse strings may intensify now that the Tories are closing in on a balanced budget. The province posted a deficit of $163 million in the fiscal year that ended in March – $531 million lower than the previous year.