News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

November 20, 2008


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Speech Commits to Balancing 2008 Budget, Continuing Tax Cuts, Investing in Infrastructure, Boosting Skills Training

Manitoba’s speech from the throne today outlined the province’s response to the growing global financial crisis by committing to balance this year’s budget, continue personal, corporate and small business tax reductions, boost skills training and invest $4.7 billion in provincial infrastructure over four years in order to grow the economy and better position the province once stability returns to the world economy.
The speech, delivered by Lt.-Gov. John Harvard, opened the third session of the 39th Manitoba legislature and took the unprecedented step of honouring the late Oscar Lathlin who served the people of The Pas for 18 years first as an MLA and then a cabinet minister. The speech noted Lathlin will be remembered for his passionate advocacy on behalf of Aboriginal and northern Manitobans, and his commitment to education and economic development opportunities for Aboriginal people.
The speech went on to say that while provincial growth is forecasted to slow in many provinces next year, Manitoba’s economy is projected to grow in 2009 and that this province is well positioned to weather the impacts of a global economic slowdown. It emphasized that affordable government within a balanced budget framework will remain a key element of Manitoba’s growth strategy.
To this end, the speech committed the province to a balanced and prudent approach to managing the province’s finances focusing on maintaining economic stability, investing strategically and expanding skills training in order to ensure the Manitoba economy is more strongly positioned for global economic recovery.
In order to maintain economic stability, the speech committed to:
·         balancing the 2008 budget without running a deficit while continuing to make a $110 million debt payment;
·         following through on personal, corporate and small business tax reductions for businesses and citizens;
·         boosting availability of credit by immediately expanding key loan programs;
·        creating a new Operating Credit Guarantee program for rural enterprises; and
·        adding flexibility to pension regulations to help ensure workers’ assets are protected and that businesses do not have to declare bankruptcy or cut benefits as a result of plan shortfalls.
The speech emphasized that now, more than ever, is a time, not only to maintain public investments in infrastructure, but also increase strategic investments in the province’s highways, hospitals, universities and schools. Increasing public infrastructure investment provides a stimulus to the economy and provides companies with the assurance they need to maintain their workforce and invest in equipment and training, the speech said.
To this end, the speech committed the province to a four-year, $4.7-billion infrastructure plan to fund needed capital projects in health, education, transportation, water and waste-water treatment, and housing.
This infrastructure plan will advance the construction of major projects in all regions of the province including:
·         a new hospital in Selkirk;
·         an expansion of the Pine Falls Health Centre;
·         upgrades to the Ste. Anne and Bethesda hospitals;
·         new housing units in Brandon, Thompson and The Pas;
·         new post-secondary education facilities in The Pas, Thompson, Brandon and Winnipeg;
·         waste-water treatment plants in Portage la Prairie, Neepawa, Brandon and Winnipeg;
·         the first leg of an all-weather road on the east side of Lake Winnipeg;
·         major upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway and PTH 6, 10 and 75; and
·         an expanded housing retrofit strategy.
The speech also committed the province to move forward with the provincewide partnership to develop CentrePort, Manitoba’s inland port. Together with federal and municipal partners, the speech committed the province to investing in new infrastructure for the 20,000-acre port area. It also committed to reducing the aviation fuel tax for cargo flights to 1.5 cents per litre from 3.2 cents per litre and expanding the exemption for international flights to include all cargo flights to and from the United States.
The speech reiterated that Manitoba’s education strategy will remain at the heart of its economic strategy and committed the province to expanding the skills base of the economy in order to open new opportunities for the province’s young people and to increase the province’s long-term competitive advantage.
As part of this strategy, the speech committed to provide new and increased tax credits for employers who provide apprenticeship places. The speech also committed to establishing training and apprenticeship targets for all major public capital projects with a special focus on Aboriginal training programs.
In addition to outlining Manitoba’s economic management strategy, the speech committed the province to bolstering security for citizens and communities while also continuing with careful stewardship of the province’s environment.
To bolster security for citizens and communities, the speech committed the province to introducing:
·         more funding for police officers and hiring more Crown prosecutors;
·         legislation to ban smoking in cars when children are present and the use of cell phones or text messaging devices while driving;
·         a new police act;
·         a new food safety act to help ensure the safety of the province’s food chain;
·         amendments to further enhance workers compensation coverage offered to firefighters; and
·         legislation to ban government health-care premiums.
The speech emphasized that in times of economic unrest, people who are already struggling to make ends meet cannot be forgotten and committed the province to continuing its poverty-reduction strategy with further elements of the four-year, $27-million Rewarding Work Program being introduced next year to help move more Manitobans from welfare to work.
The speech also committed to introducing new child-care programs in schools, new recruitment and retention initiatives for child-care workers, while doubling investments in specialized medical equipment across the province.
Environmental stewardship remained a priority in this year’s speech with a commitment to banning new logging in provincial parks on a go-forward basis and to introducing in co-operation with industry stakeholders a plan to phase out existing logging that has been taking place in provincial parks for many decades.
The speech committed to launching a new Wetland Protection and Restoration Initiative in the coming year including plans to restore the province’s major marshes. New incentives will be introduced for landowners to restore or develop prairie wetlands. A new Sustainable Agricultural Program will also be launched as part of the province’s Kyoto and Beyond plan.
The speech also committed to bolstering recycling programs by setting aggressive targets for the reuse of plastic bags and banning the distribution of bags that do not conform to composting or recycling standards.
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