The release of the provincial budget offers no real surprises but does lead to cautious concern moving forward for the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC).
While sticking to many items already announced during the April campaign, MCC is pleased to see the government work towards addressing two of the biggest concerns for Manitoba businesses, economic competitiveness and workforce. Training the current and next generation of workers will be critical for our future. Increasing investment in education and training by 1.4% provides a good start. Where the extra money goes and how it impacts the training facilities will be important to see. Companies are looking for specific workers; the training investments must reflect their needs.
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce is also buoyed by the initial look at addressing our economic compeitiveness gap with our jurisdictions. The decision to include indexing of the Basic Personal Exemption will not bring us on par with jurisdictions, like Saskatchewan, but begins the process to have Manitobans keep more of their money.
However, if there is a glaring issue, it is the plan to achieve a balanced budget over the next eight years. This will leave Manitoba in a vulnerable position, and one that will be out of the control of the government should there be another economic slowdown.
“Setting a goal to reach a balanced budget within the next eight years is a bit surprising,” said MCC President and CEO Chuck Davidson. “That would mean, assuming the reach the target within their stated window, would mean 16 years without a balanced budget. That will not the business community with confidence moving forward.”
Over the last two years, MCC has championed a sustainable investment formula, 96/4, for the tourism industry. The increase of more than $3 million for Travel Manitoba achieves that goal. While it still ranks Manitoba last when it comes to tourism funding, this increase is what Travel Manitoba and the industry has been looking for to increase marketing and increase tax revenue collected by the province.
“This increase in Travel Manitoba’s budget is a strong example of this government, and the former government, that tourism is an investment in Manitoba,” said Davidson.
Budget 2016 reminds Manitobans and the business community of the challenges that lie ahead. It also sets the stage for further discussions with the government to work towards a more aggressive approach to returning Manitoba to balance and fiscal growth.