The Manitoba Liberals would run at least six more years of deficits, if elected in the upcoming provincial election.
Leader Rana Bokhari unveiled her fiscal plan for the province on Easter Monday.
She says she’d aim to balance the budget by 2022, chipping away at the deficit until then by holding the line on spending in costly departments like health, education and family services.
Bokhari says she’d cap increases in health spending at four per cent, education at two and a half per cent and all other departments at two per cent.
“This is not a cut in those departments or even a freeze in spending. It just means spending growth will be controlled,” she says. “The mess that we’re walking into is not one where we could sit here today and pretend that magically we’re gonna shake money out of people…what we’re proposing is a reasonable, safe, responsible, slow and steady plan.”
The plan is a first look at how Bokhari plans to pay for her costly promises on the campaign trail. She says her pledges, which include millions for childcare, all day kindergarten, a dedicated stroke unit and changes to student loans would cost $143.9 million dollars in the first year. That number would rise to $200 million after five years.
Bokhari says she has factored those into her deficit projections and she says she’s not willing to raise taxes to get back in the black sooner.
“When you’re me and you’re knocking on doors and every conversation becomes about basic, everyday Manitobans not being able to make ends meet….it’s very hard to stomach at that point how you are going to continue to tax people.”
Bokhari’s most expensive promise, eliminating the corporate payroll tax, wouldn’t be phased in until after the budget is balanced.
The NDP have responded to the announcement. In a statement, the party says “a fiscal plan that has no costing for hundreds of millions of dollars in promises is not a plan. The Bokhari Liberal platform is either not thought through or insincere.”
Before the election campaign, the NDP government pegged Manitoba’s deficit at a whopping $773 million dollars.
They have pledged to try and get back into balance by 2020.