A government typically uses its Throne Speech to outline its vision for the future.
In the Selinger government’s address this year they have chosen instead to refocus their message in regards to last spring’s $277-million 1 per-cent increase to the Provincial Sales Tax.
And while the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce has not been supportive of the manner in which the PST increase has been implemented and the lack of transparency and vagueness in how the money has been spent to date the Throne Speech does provide greater clarification.
The cornerstone of the provinces Throne Speech focussed on outlining that new infrastructure spending would be focused on core, strategic economic infrastructure that will build Manitoba’s roads and bridges, flood protection and municipal infrastructure like water and sewer.
In fact they are promising that “Every dollar raised from the new point of PST will be fully dedicated to new investments in core infrastructure — over and above existing spending levels.”
The Province has also agreed that in the months ahead that they will carry out additional infrastructure roundtables with leaders throughout our province to help develop a new five-year plan to create jobs and build our province’s infrastructure. This plan will be delivered with the next provincial budget and will prepare us to secure matching federal dollars.
MCC is also encouraged that we should see greater accountable in tax dollars being spent on infrastructure going forward, as the Office of the Auditor General will prepare an annual public audit of infrastructure expenditures.
Some other highlights of the Budget that you might find of interest include:
- A multi-year reconstruction of PTH 75 to better protect this vital route from flood-related closures and major upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway to Ontario to strengthen another critical trade route.
- Major investments in the Perimeter Highway system and a new Trans-Canada Highway bypass around Headingley to improve traffic flows and help realize the full potential of CentrePort Canada Way.
- New investments in PTH 10 from Brandon to the U.S. border and north to Minnedosa, and the redevelopment of Brandon’s Daly Overpass.
- A commitment to expand Winnipeg’s rapid transit project including completing the southwest corridor to University of Manitoba, adding an additional lane to the Pembina Highway underpass and improving active transportation
- Better and streamlined tax credits for employers to take on more apprentices, and new tools to help match apprentices with job openings.
- A new grant program for young entrepreneurs in technology-based start-ups and access to better resources for young people in skilled trades wanting to start their own business.
- Expanded co-op and workplace credit options for high school students and upgrades to more shop classes so students can gain practical experience.
- A new Churchill transportation authority to diversify and market the port to attract investment and develop opportunities in the north.
By no means would I consider this to be a visionary Throne Speech – instead it is clearly a response to the public’s dissatisfaction with last Spring’s PST increase – but at least this time the government’s provide a more transparent explanation as to where they money will be spent and why.
I encourage you to check out the Throne Speech for yourself and provide me with any concerns that you may have.
Chuck Davidson President & CEO Manitoba Chambers of Commerce