And they’re off.
The race to be the Premier of Manitoba for the next four years has officially started.
Flanked by his caucus, Premier Greg Selinger walked from the Legislature to Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon’s residence on a gloomy Wednesday morning. Inside he asked her to officially call the April 19 election.
He walked out the front door a candidate again. Standing on the Legislature’s front grounds with his fellow NDP candidates, he said voters should be confident in his party’s ideas and experience.
“Yes, we’ve been around for a while. But we’ve also kept an open mind at how to learn from our experience. How to do things better. How to improve on things that have been started. One thing I know about being in government – if it’s going to go wrong, it has gone wrong. And then you know how to do it better. So experience counts,” he said.
A hurdle for his government to overcome – the 2013 decision to raise the PST from seven to eight per cent without holding a referendum. It’s one that has left Selinger with a low approval rating ever since. Do Manitobans find him likeable enough to reelect?
“Manitobans will decide that,” Selinger said. “I do know this – when I meet Manitobans, perhaps it’s because you’re talking one on one, we have good conversations. We have a good understanding of each others’ concerns.”
PST Hike Front And Centre On Day One
Tory Leader Brian Pallister kicked off his party’s campaign in St. Boniface (Selinger’s constituency), reiterating his promise to reduce the PST back down to seven per cent within four years if elected.
He says he’ll find $300 million in savings by auditing all government departments, including health.
“We get lots of suggestions on ways to save money in the health care system from the people who work in it. There are no sacred cows here,” he said.
Selinger added a caveat to his party’s plan to reduce the PST back to seven per cent by 2023.
“We believe we can do it, but it’s subject to future economic forecasts and our ability to make sure Canada moves forward economically,” he said.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said she would stick to the 10-year plan the NDP put in place, but dedicate one per cent of the PST to municipalities.
But she committed firmly to lowering it back down in 2023.
“If we cannot as government manage our fiscal house within our time in government, there’s a bigger problem there… Our commitment is 10 years and I’m not going to move from that,” she said.
Liberals Promise All Day Kindergarten
If elected, the Manitoba Liberals want to implement full-day Kindergarten province-wide in the next five years.
“(There are) many social benefits, as well as many economic benefits. Other province have been doing this for years. We have fallen behind and we’re going to get back on track,” she said.
Bokhari says the rollout would cost $50 million for staff and administration. She did not have an estimate for capital costs. In Ontario, it has required millions of dollars to upgrade schools to accommodate it.
She says the party would consult with school divisions and other stakeholders before rolling it out.
Though she’s a new face in this election, Bokhari says people shouldn’t be concerned about being able to trust her with their vote.
“I think the real question is, how much do they trust the people who claim to be experienced? These people have been in power for so many years. They are true politicians in the worst sense of the word… It’s all talking points. You can’t get a straight answer from anyone. For me at the end of this on April 20, I’m staying by my word, I’m being honest about the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m taking leadership positions. Even if they’re difficult to make, we’re making those decisions. I think that’s the kind of leadership Manitobans want,” she said.
Greens Want Seat At The Table
The Manitoba Green Party opened their campaign by announcing a guaranteed annual income plan. It would be provided to adults in the form of a refundable tax credit, starting at $6,300 and rising depending on family size.
“By taking all these boutique tax credits and rolling them into a single, refundable benefit that’s targeted to lower income earners, we’ve determined that we could basically cut poverty by half,” explained Green leader James Beddome. “You’d reduce welfare caseloads by 18 per cent and would also make it easier for people to transition to work.”
Beddome says Manitobans are itching for change, and he believes people should give the Green Party a chance.
“We’re not a fringe party. We’ve seen Greens elected across Canada. Yes, the GAI is a big, bold plan, but it’s also very moderate and costed out. I think Manitobans are looking for something and they’re not sure what they’re looking for, they’re not real satisfied by the other options. I’m hoping, bit by bit, people are going to keep looking at us.”
Beddome adds that even if they don’t win a seat in April, it’s important for the Green Party to be able to start and contribute to political discussions.