WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and his new government will face one of their first big tests today as they table a budget.
Less than six weeks after sweeping into power with a majority government, the Tories will deliver a financial blueprint expected to be free of bombshells or big cuts.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says they’ve been in warp speed to get the budget ready to quickly but the lack of time does mean their hands are sort of tied.
“There are constraints,” he says. “There are decisions that have already been undertaken. Nevertheless, we believe that we will be able to show real progress.”
Friesen isn’t giving away specifics but says the PCs will show “clear action” and have been able to “sharpen the pencil” and find some savings in certain areas.
“Obviously, we’ve said for a long time, governments need to be responsible with taxpayer money,” says Friesen.
He does say there will be more “meat on the bone” in terms of the government explaining how they have calculated Manitoba’s deficit is much bigger than the NDP claimed for years. Friesen came out earlier in May and proclaimed it was actually about one billion dollars.
NDP Finance Critic James Allum continues to say that number is wrong.
“That budget number was as bogus as you’re likely to find,” he says. “We’ll be looking to ensure that Mr. Pallister and Mr. Friesen come clean with the people of Manitoba.”
Allum expects to see a “status quo budget” with some modest tax cuts. He says he’ll be looking for “hidden cuts”.
Most budgets include a projection of up to five years down the road to give an indication of where a government is looking to go financially.
Friesen has indicated this budget may not include that, saying it will focus on this year. That means we might not get any better idea of when the Tories hope to balance the books.
“What we’re committed to do is bring real numbers and real projections as soon as we can.”
The government is still planning to start a large scale review to find savings in the public service. A pledge to lower the PST back to seven per cent will not happen this year but is promised at some point within the Tories first mandate.