Five-year Economic Plan to Grow the Economy, Invest in Key Services: Wowchuk
Budget 2010 introduces a five-year economic plan that will tackle the budget shortfall while at the same time continue to invest in front-line services in health care, education and training, policing and supports for families, Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said today.
“There isn’t a corner of the world that has escaped the recession that has swept over the globe in the past year,” said Wowchuk. “Manitoba has fared better than most, but we are still feeling the impact of the worst economic downturn since the Second World War. What we need to do now is ensure our economy is competitive when the global economy recovers. We need to do it in a way that doesn’t leave people behind.”
Budget 2010 projects a $545-million shortfall, which includes core government departments, Crown corporations and pension obligations. A payment of $96 million will be made to start paying down principal and interest on the debt incurred as a result of the economic downturn.
“Working together, Manitobans have always been able to overcome obstacles,” said Wowchuk. “I’m certain that we can overcome this obstacle, while at the same time demonstrating that we are a caring and compassionate province ready to move Manitoba forward in a positive fashion.”
Budget 2010 invests in health care, education, training, policing and supports for families. Wowchuk said over 90 per cent of new spending will go to these priority areas in the budget. It includes:
– continuing additional funding to train more doctors and nurses;
– limiting increases to pharmacare deductibles to the rate of inflation and continue covering all eligible drug costs above deductibles;
– increasing funding by almost three per cent for public schools;
– providing post-secondary institutions with a 4.5 per cent operating increase;
– providing college and university students with earlier access to part of the Tuition Fee Income Tax Rebate while they are still in school;
– providing $2 million more for apprenticeship positions to help meet the emerging labour market training demands;
– continuing support for Rebound, a program that helps low-income people learn new skills that lead to jobs;
– providing operating funding for a police helicopter in Winnipeg;
– funding more police officers in Winnipeg and Brandon;
– adding more resources for corrections and nine full-time prosecutor positions;
– creating a new pension plan for child-care workers to improve recruitment and retention of early childhood educators; and
– providing additional funding and support for vulnerable Manitobans.
Wowchuk said a key element of the five-year economic plan involves stimulating economic growth through investments in infrastructure. The idea is to build and upgrade infrastructure to create jobs and to invest in innovation to secure a prosperous future, she said.
To this end, Budget 2010 will:
– invest $1.8 billion in infrastructure spending, a 90 per cent increase over 2008;
– provide more than $600 million in highway construction and upgrading, particularly for PTH 75 south and the Trans-Canada Highway east, and PTH 2 and PTH 6 which are vital economic corridors for goods and services moving north-south and east-west;
– build CentrePort Canada Way including construction of an overpass at CPR’s main line and an interchange at the Perimeter Highway;
– provide $100 million to replace and repair bridges including the bridge at St. Adolphe;
– build an all-weather east side road, creating jobs, training and business opportunities for east side communities;
– construct new schools in La Broquerie, Steinbach and Winkler;
– add 1,500 new social housing units over the next five years and upgrade existing units, involving people in social housing in the construction and renovation projects to develop skills and community pride; and
– partner with the federal government to expand park services including expanding trails, new playgrounds, campground upgrades and water treatment and waste-water systems.
Wowchuk said equally as important as investment is the ability to manage government spending. She stressed the government will responsibly limit spending to ensure the priorities of Manitobans come first.
The measures include:
– limiting overall core government spending growth to an annual average of less than two per cent over the five-year plan;
– decreasing the budgets of one-half of all government departments in 2010-11 to focus on priority areas of Manitobans;
– reducing the pay of cabinet ministers by 20 per cent and proposing a wage freeze for members of the legislative assembly and senior government staff; and
– negotiating a pause in public sector wage increases.
Wowchuk said the five-year economic plan will allow Manitoba to eliminate the deficit and return to surplus by Budget 2014, at the same time keeping the province as one of the most affordable places to live, work and raise a family.