by Graham Lane
Published in the Winnipeg Sun, March 16, 2018
Ahead of Monday’s provincial budget, a Sun editorial rang true when it focused on the need for Manitoba’s economy to grow more robustly. A recent Tom Brodbeck column cited provincial budget expense increases under Pallister, outlining that despite Pallister’s pre-budget promises to right the good ship Manitoba we are headed for the reef. Projected economic growth of 1.8% (2018) and an anemic 1.3% (2019) is pathetic.
While the Pallister government plays at ‘reform’, tinkering around the edges with measures like public sector wage restraint and lowering the annual rate of grant increases to education and municipal governments, it remains completely clueless about the big picture “elephant in the room” issues underlying Manitoba’s decades long relative national decline. Tinkering will not do it, Mr. Premier. Although you were elected to change the political and economic circumstances of Manitoba, you are governing more like your spendthrift predecessor Mr. Selinger.
Instead of upping an already excess tax load on individuals and industry – by way of a politically toxic carbon dioxide tax and hiding behind the PUB by forcing inflationary electricity rate hikes – Pallister should have started by thinking ‘big’ by reducing government’s suffocating weight on the economy. Payroll tax and ridiculous land transfer fees, the personal tax exemption is still “way, way” below our western provincial neighbours, and we have overall governmental expenditures still heading higher.
Pallister’s majority ‘conservative’ government acts like a minority government, with the minority partner being the disgraced NDP. Apart from public fatigue following 17 years of NDP rule, the PCs came to power largely on the strength of one promise: to roll back Selinger’s PST increase.
Not only has Pallister given himself a full four-year term to keep that promise, he is planning to pay for it by creating a new tax and increasing the overall tax burden, while ludicrously calling it “the biggest tax cut in Manitoba history”. The premier says he will replace one point of the PST with a whole new “PST”: the Pallister Carbon Tax. Pallister’s “cure” will be worse than the disease.
Leaving aside his latest budget promise, that personal exemptions will climb by 2021 to the current 2018 Canadian average, and that the PST will drop back to 7%, Pallister focuses on bringing in more revenue from same group of sheep that the NDP regularly sheared. Is this what conservative voters worked so hard for to get rid of the NDP?
Hydro rate increases and new carbon taxes on natural gas heating, gasoline and diesel will quickly absorb the tax savings through a future exemption increase. The “best budget ever” headlines Pallister is promoting are really nothing more than fake news about fake tax cuts from a fake conservative party.
There was a reason that Caroline Mulroney suddenly pitched aside deposed Ontario Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown’s ‘smarty pants’ carbon tax program in her leadership campaign. It was the same reason that Doug Ford will most likely be the next premier of Ontario. As in Manitoba, the conservative voting base abhors, as Ford would say, the “out of touch” elites’ hyped-up nonsense of the carbon tax.
So don’t be surprised if a new political party arises, with a focus on real reform, particularly lowering taxes while axing the Pallister Carbon Tax.
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