On October 7, the Pallister government will outline their focus for the province as we move forward in addressing the challenges created by COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the Speech from the Throne has to follow last week’s financial projections for 2020-2021, in which Finance Minister Scott Fielding estimated that Manitoba will show a deficit in excess of $2.5 billion as a result of lower tax revenues and higher costs as a consequence of the pandemic.
While it is clear these are unprecedented times and the current government will continue to face tough challenges moving forward, MCC will be looking for measures to support struggling businesses and grow the Manitoba economy. Here are our top five recommendations:
  1. Create a funding stream to provide retroactive cost relief for small-and medium sized businesses to reimburse a portion of costs related to COVID-19 compliance and prevention (e.g. Plexiglass shields at cash register, floor marking stickers, hand sanitizer and dispenser stations, protective masks, temporary or permanent alterations to workspaces and related engineering designs, etc.) Approval for a grant would not be contingent upon whether or not a business owner had received other COVID-19 funding (federal or provincial).
  2. Develop a sector-specific support program – Industries like hospitality, restaurants, tourism, and travel are facing significant hurdles in recovering and there is a need for financial incentives to address their particular challenges.
  3. Increase infrastructure spending as a vehicle to help stimulate the economy. MCC will be looking for details on projects.
  4. Invest in digital infrastructure, as the need is even more evident today than ever before. As more employees work remotely, digital storefronts take on even greater significance, and distance learning becomes commonplace, all Manitobans need access to reliable and affordable broadband from border to border.
  5. Increase focus on skills training and investments in programs such as work-integrated learning initiatives to ensure our current workforce can meet future needs.

By focusing on measures to help businesses remain sustainable through these challenging times, the provincial government will help Manitoba return to a prosperous economy and the hopes of returning balanced budgets in the future.