The Manitoba government presented its financial plan for 2023, leaning heavily on a strong economy to deliver $1.8 billion in affordability and tax measures along with an investment of $2 billion in vital programs and services.
“The theme of this budget was historic help and that’s really what the government is delivering here this time,” Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski said following the presentation of Budget 2023 in the Legislature, last week. “I think it’s timely support. I think the government has done a lot of work towards helping Manitobans during and through some tough times and I think this budget is needed support at a time that’s important.”
Michaleski said people in the constituency and across the province are experiencing a lot of uncertainty surrounding the emergence from the COVID pandemic and the high inflation rates, which are disrupting their daily lives.
“So the government, I think, is absolutely correct in applying the dollars and the focus of spending right now on tax relief. And we haven’t lost sight of the fact that we’re getting Manitoba open for business. A lot of the tax savings all contribute towards that environment,” Michaleski said. “I agree completely what the direction the premier and the government are going on this budget.”
Budget 2023 includes the largest personal income tax reduction in Manitoba history. Changes to the Provincial Basic Personal Amount will ensure that Manitobans do not pay a cent of income tax on the first $15,000 they earn in 2023. This measure alone will save the average two-income family over $1,000 and will remove 47,400 low-income Manitobans from the tax rolls. Changes to tax bracket thresholds in 2024 will provide even greater savings for Manitobans.
It is a budget that Premier Heather Stefanson said will leave more than $5,500 in the pockets of the average family by 2024, while delivering across-the-board funding increases in all 19 government departments.
“In the last year, the Manitoba economy emerged faster and stronger than anyone could have anticipated with more Manitobans working than ever before,’’ Stefanson said. “Budget 2023 reinvests every cent of new revenue to help Manitobans and our most vital services - all accomplished while keeping the province on track to eliminate the deficit.”
Critics of the document have questioned why tax relief measures are delayed until 2024. It is a position which Michaleski says fails to take in the whole picture.
“I don’t know if there’s a delay. It’s been sort of timely all the way along. We’ve been applying tax relief for a number of years. Something like the basic personal exemption, we made adjustments to that a number of years ago,” he said. “This latest one was a huge improvement to the pace. Personal exemption of $15,000, again that allows people to keep their money before the tax man comes after them. We consistently have been doing that. Tax relief on agricultural and residential property tax, we’re continuing on with those reductions. We’ve consistently been applying that and I wouldn’t say we’ve delayed anything too much.”
The budget also attempts to help heal the health-care system, with the largest-ever investment of $7.9 billion, an increase of $668 million. It is hoped that money will help shorten wait times and rebuild the front lines. Budget 2023 also initiates a $1.2-billion multi-year capital campaign that will add capacity to nine facilities including in rural hospitals, St. Boniface Hospital, Grace Hospital, CancerCare Manitoba and Health Sciences Centre.
“Budget 2023 is making significant investments to heal health care in our province to help people get the care they need, when and where it’s needed,” Finance Minister Cliff Cullen said in presenting the financial plan. “We’re making foundational investments to reduce diagnostic and surgical backlogs, hire more health professionals and support health infrastructure needs, but we’re also expanding coverage for diabetes insulin pumps and glucose monitors, and creating a new hearing aid program for Manitobans.”
The budget also provides an investment of more than $100 million to address the challenges of violent crime and homelessness across Manitoba.
“We all want to feel safe in our homes, on our streets and in our communities,’’ Cullen said. “Budget 2023 addresses the root causes of crime, with significant investments in homelessness, shelters and housing, addictions beds and enhanced services for mental health. There is also more for front-line police officers to fight violent crime.”
Budget 2023 reflects that a growing Manitoba starts with stronger communities and supports for affordable, quality services close to home.
Manitoba schools will benefit from historic funding - the largest increase in a quarter century - bringing funding for Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools to $1.7 billion, up $100 million from last year. The Manitoba government is also well on its way to creating 23,000 affordable child-care spaces and will invest $76 million this year to introduce affordable child care three years ahead of plans in other provinces.
Budget 2023 will provide more help than ever before for Manitobans with disabilities as funding increases to $640 million and contains an investment of $217 million in total municipal operating funding - $47 million more than last year. Millions more are earmarked for wastewater treatment, transit and other capital projects.
Cullen said Manitoba expects to have 114,000 new job openings over the next five years. Three in five of these jobs will require some form of university training. To meet this challenge the province will invest $65 million more into post-secondary institutions and cap university tuition increases at 2.75 per cent.
This year’s budget assists small business growth and supports the creation of new made-in-Manitoba jobs by increasing investments in loans and guarantees by $27 million to incent private-sector investment in enterprises that can demonstrate significant, sustainable growth and job creation. It also includes $15 million for the Community Economic Development Fund and $20 million to support economic development and investment attraction.
Recognizing the need for new investment opportunities Budget 2023 doubles the funds dedicated to venture capital to $100 million and eliminates payroll taxes for an additional 150 employers. The payroll tax rate will be reduced for the first time in 25 years in 2024, if the economy continues to perform as it has this year.
“I think it leans into the approach that this government has had and it’s a whole of Manitoba look,” Michaleski said. “So when we say there’s increases to education or health care, it’s a whole of Manitoba. That’s something that this government has done from day one and they continue to do that.”