The following is an open letter to the Premier and Government of Manitoba. We are looking for more signatures to this letter, both organizations and individuals. We will re-release the letter with a larger group of signatures early in the new year.
December 13, 2023
Dear Premier Kinew and the Manitoba Government,
The public services that Manitobans count on continue to feel the strain of $1.6 billion of tax cuts over seven years under the previous government. Vital areas like health care, education and core government and social services have been under-resourced for years.
The previous government has left the province facing a challenging fiscal position with a much larger deficit than originally forecasted in Budget 2023. Given this new information, the Budget 2023/24 tax cuts create a structural deficit with a substantial opportunity cost for investment in services and addressing the social deficit. Politicians should take their promises seriously, but the economic circumstances have changed since the tax cuts were legislated.
We, the undersigned, urge you to avoid committing to any fiscal framework that unnecessarily constrains the province’s ability to follow through on commitments made during the election campaign, including major commitments to:
Fix health care, including launching the biggest health recruitment campaign in Manitoba's history and reversing privatization;
Increase the number of Personal Care Home Beds and strengthen public home care
Reduce class sizes and strengthen school funding;
Uphold Manitoba’s commitments in the bilateral agreement on child care: adding 23,000 new licensed affordable child care spaces and improving hours while raising wages for ECEs;
End chronic homelessness and build hundreds of social and affordable housing units and maintain Manitoba Housing properties;
Adequately fund capital infrastructure and public programs, municipalities, transit and transportation;
Rebuild the public service; and
Make the energy grid net zero by 2035 and achieve net zero targets by 2050
Research by Engage Manitoba consistently finds that fixing health care and education are the top priorities for Manitoba, and tax cuts are the lowest. Borrowing money to fund tax cuts is unsustainable, and pressure to balance the budget could force deep cuts to services and programming.
Research shows that Manitoba’s pre-existing tax regime is competitive and we are middle of the pack of provinces in terms of taxes collected relative to the size of the economy.
We recognize that working and middle-class Manitobans are facing an affordability crisis and that policy to ease this is crucial. However, tax cuts disproportionately benefit well-off Manitobans, and provide little to no relief for those struggling most with the rising cost of living. Research shows that the best way for a provincial government to help with the affordability crisis is through redistributive means such as boosting income transfers and quality public services.
The December 2023 $1.6 billion deficit projection makes it clear that the previous government’s fiscal framework was unsustainable and should not be committed to, moving forward. Any realistic path forward that honours your election commitments entails exploring means of shoring up revenue. It also means extending your timeline to return the budget to balance given the shockingly high deficit and deep cuts inflicted on public services in Manitoba.
We encourage you to take an approach that ensures sustainable revenue to meet the province’s urgent need to rebuild public services, provide good jobs for Manitobans, and ease the affordability crunch for those who need it most. There are options for progressive measures that accomplish these goals. Many of the organizational and individual signatories to this letter stand ready to dialogue with you on these options.
See our blog policyfix.ca for a list of up-to-date signatures