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Health care and mental health services priorities for budget: Manitoba government

Click to play video: 'Minister of Finance Cameron Friesen Discusses Manitoba’s Budget' Minister of Finance Cameron Friesen Discusses Manitoba’s Budget
St. Boniface MLA Dougald Lamont and Opposition Leader Wab Kinew respond to Minister Friesen's statements regarding the upcoming provincial budget. – Mar 23, 2022

The Manitoba government is promising more tax cuts in its budget even as the province faces ongoing deficits and a health-care system struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says the 2022-23 budget is to be released on April 12.

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The Progressive Conservative government plans to continue its previously announced goal to phase out its education tax on property, Friesen said Wednesday. There is also to be some sort of relief to help people deal with inflation.

“Manitobans are seeing increases in fuel. They’re seeing increases in their grocery bills … so we believe relief is necessary,” Friesen said.

Click to play video: 'Legislature Update – Mar. 22, 2022' Legislature Update – Mar. 22, 2022
Legislature Update – Mar. 22, 2022 – Mar 22, 2022

Businesses can also expect new measures to encourage them to hire more employees, Friesen added. He wouldn’t go into details, but said the government has been looking at changes to tax credits.

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The Tories are also promising to boost efforts to reduce a backlog of surgeries and diagnostic tests that has grown exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba budget to be tabled April 12' Manitoba budget to be tabled April 12
Manitoba budget to be tabled April 12 – Mar 23, 2022

The opposition parties say they are not convinced.

The government consolidated some emergency rooms in Winnipeg before the pandemic, and intensive care units were overwhelmed at times after COVID-19 erupted. At one point last spring, dozens of ICU patients were flown to other provinces in an attempt to free up beds.

“We need to see real investments and a real plan that includes things like a date to end the surgical backlog,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said further reductions in property taxes would do little to help people in need and would add to the deficit.

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Manitoba has been running deficits since 2009, save for a slim surplus in 2019. The red ink returned with the pandemic and the government has promised to balance the budget again by 2028.

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Lamont said the Liberals are supportive of lowering one tax — the province’s payroll levy. It charges companies a percentage of their total annual payroll once that reaches $1.75 million.

“Fairly small companies can end up with a big tax bill,” Lamont said.

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