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Interim supply - the reason for the emergency session - the Pallister government needs more money

On June 6th our Manitoba Legislature was recalled for an emergency session.   A primary reason for the emergency session was that the Pallister government had done a poor job of managing the budgetary process, had not completed the budgetary process and indeed had not even introduced one of the important budgetary bills - the BITSA bill.  The BITSA bill (short hand for Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act) is an essential part of the budgetary process and would normally be introduced and often debated and passed by this time.   However, the Pallister Conservatives did not manage the budgetary process well with the result we had to have the emergency session.   In order for the government to have money to continue to operate as a result of the budget not being fully passed, a major reason for the emergency session was to pass an interim supply bill which would give the government the ability to keep on spending during the period until the budget bills like BITSA are fully passed.   Finally, after many days of debating other items, on Tuesday June 20 we got to debate the interim supply bill.   I used the opportunity to point out a number of flaws in the Pallister government's approach to budgeting. My comments in the Legislature are below. 

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, a few comments on this interim supply bill. As the government has emphasized that there is a very large deficit, it is unusual for a government with a very large deficit to be starting by reducing revenue by having tax cuts. The result is that this government is forcing itself to make major cuts in services so that we're seeing a lot of cuts to services in health care, in education, in francophone services and in other areas. The government is forcing itself to freeze salaries but hasn't listened to people who have suggestions about how you can operate things more efficiently. We heard at committee level and I've heard from many, many people that they have ideas to–of how to operate things more efficiently, but this government just doesn't want to listen. It just wants to cut people's salaries and cut services.
      This government has brought in a personal income tax exemption increase, which doesn't help those who are on low incomes, who are not even paying any tax currently, because it won't benefit them at all. And those who are on low incomes, will have increased hydro costs, increased all sorts of   other costs and so–that their [the Pallister Conservatives] budget will disproportionately be bad for those who are least well off, those who are poor.
      The government has said, well, it has an answer: it's going to rely on research. But the Finance Minister has already told us that he's dramatically cutting the budget for research, so he won't have the research which he needs in order to rely on it. And so he's getting himself into a bit of a pickle. He needs to thank the federal government for all the dollars for child care and early childhood education, because that's essentially where the increased funding [for child care and early childhood education] has come from. He needs to thank the federal government for the increase in the Child Benefit, because that has probably done more to reduce poverty in Manitoba than any other measure. He needs to thank the federal government for the increase in health-care transfers. 
      The federal government has increased the transfers for health care, but the Minister of Finance is taking some of that increase of transfers to make tax cuts, and so, instead of improving mental health services, instead of improving home-care services for which he's received additional monies from the federal government as well as the federal health transfers, he's spending a lot of money on reports and the reports were clearly written by people who were not all that familiar with our health-care system.
      The KPMG report said that CancerCare Manitoba isn't doing a good job. Well, that's clearly wrong and the KPMG people didn't understand what is happening in our province.
      The fact that the government cut Misericordia urgent care, the Corydon primary care, which has impacted a lot of people, has resulted in increased numbers of people going to St. Boniface Hospital emergency room and I've repeatedly heard of chaotic situations at the St. Boniface Hospital emergency room, and I repeatedly hear of poor morale because of the way that this government has been managing change in health care, and if you don't have people who are interested and excited and want to do their job and want to do a good job, and if you're undermining morale, it's really hard to get good services delivered. And so that is what's happening in this province.
      Add to this that the government has put on the carbon tax, but it's using [money raised from] the carbon tax to reduce the deficit, and to lower taxes for rich people, but the problem is that there's no money going to compensate people who are disproportionately affected.
      Truckers have come to us, many of them, to say that they're going to be paying a lot more disproportionately in carbon tax but they're not going to be getting any benefit, and when you have a government which is not paying attention to one of the major industries in this province, we have a problem, and we have a problem with this government and the way that it is operating.
      It's a government which is going to see increased income as a result of the cannabis business and sales. There's clearly going to be increased taxes coming in from businesses operating, increased personal taxes as well as the retail sales tax from the sales of cannabis.
      And yet the government is not going to account for that and is going to say, at the end of the year, that oh, look how much better we're doing than we projected, but all because they didn't include any of the taxes that they're going to be bringing in on cannabis.
      So there are a lot of problems with the financial management of this government, as I have already said earlier today. They have a lack of a prevention services plan, an area where, clearly, there are a lot of potentials for savings. They are adding more bureaucracy with the shared services Manitoba, and so we are seeing more and more problems instead of more and more solutions.
      So, with those few words, Madam Speaker, I will pass on so that others may speak if they desire. Thank you.


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