As we start to prepare for our April 8/2021 #MBPoli Power Hour with Honourable Scott Fielding, Minister of Finance, we’re revisiting the Budget 2021 Consultation outcomes – what Manitobans shared with government.

In March 2020, the Manitoba government registered its first budget surplus in more than a decade, although we fully expect to be back in the red this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly to the tune of $2.048 billion by the end of March 2021. However, that is down substantially from the previous forecast of $2.938 billion in September and $5 billion predicted in the early days of the COVID response. Federal transfers helped improve the situation, according to Premier Brian Pallister.

In spite of COVID’s overwhelming impact, there are clearly still other priorities. On January 22, the Manitoba government launched public engagement activities asking Manitobans for feedback on how to prioritize investments for the upcoming year. Several engagement opportunities were available including a series of telephone town halls, virtual meetings, a quick poll and an online survey. Nearly 51,000 participants took part in an engagement activity and provided feedback to help shape the upcoming provincial budget.

Here are some of the key take-aways:

  • Participants indicated their top three Budget 2021 priorities as improving health care (73%), improving education and child care (52%), and increasing mental health and addictions (43%).
  • Compared to other high priority areas of health care spending, getting the COVID-19 vaccine out to Manitobans is seen as the highest priority with 57% of participants indicating the provincial government should spend whatever it takes to get all Manitobans who want to be vaccinated immunized as soon as possible.
  • Feedback on how to approach the provincial deficit was mixed with 37% of participants indicating government should stick with its plan to balance the budget by 2027 and 44% of participants indicating government should balance the budget later than 2027, even if it means higher deficits and more provincial debt.
  • Participants were asked to rate various steps the provincial government can take to help the economy recover from the effects of COVID-19. The top three steps identified as high priority by participants were creating apprenticeship training opportunities (44%), investing in infrastructure (40%), and helping Manitoba businesses increase the amount of goods and services they sell in other markets (33%).
  • Participants were asked to rate various steps that could help residents and businesses recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. The top three steps identified as very helpful by participants were grant programs for businesses (49%), commercial rent assist programs for small businesses (44%), and deferring interest or penalties on public services such as hydro bills or auto insurance (41%).

Please join us on April 8 and let’s see how everything lines up. To register for this special event featuring Honourable Scott Fielding, Minister of Finance: https://mbchamber.chambermaster.com/eventregistration/register/19 

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