New Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has made a couple good announcements as of late to address high taxation and the province’s debt.
It’s a good start, but what Mr. Pallister really needs to do next more than anything is address the “root cause” of those problems — high spending.
His recent push to raise the universal basic personal exemption rather than vote-buying tax credits like his party promised during the last election is a welcome decision. Raising the basic personal exemption would impact nearly everyone in Manitoba and would particularly help our province’s high-taxed, low-income families.
His willingness to even talk about the debt is a welcome contrast to his party’s free-spending commitments during the last election, which rivaled the irresponsible spending ways of the NDP.
After all, debt and high spending is why we pay such high taxes in the province. Both are why the province just brought in the largest tax increase in 25 years and continue to rack up even more debt at a rate of $47 per second.
Mr. Pallister would be wise to tap Manitobans for ideas on how the province could reduce spending. After all, many Manitobans are growing tired of high taxes and seeing the government expand seemingly everywhere in the province.
As he waits for suggestions to come in he could read up on some of the wasteful and inefficient spending examples uncovered by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a non-profit taxpayers’ watchdog group.
Beginning at the top, the NDP recently created a brand new $190,000 office for Bonnie Korzeniowski, a former NDP MLA, to lead. The full-time “special envoy” for the military position for her is something she used to do while serving as an MLA at the same time. Couldn’t her replacement also do double duty to save taxpayer money? Absolutely.
Mr. Pallister could address much larger issues such as the fact our K-12 education system has seen a large drop in the number of students over the past decade yet costs have skyrocketed well above the inflation rate. Surely there must be savings to be had?
The new Tory leader could also put civil servants on notice that his government would not allow paid time off to go Christmas shopping. Amazingly the Manitoba Vital Statistics branch did just that, only to bring employees in on the weekend and pay them overtime to “catch up.” Christmas shopping on the clock isn’t a common occurrence, but the new PC leader should try to set the tone early that he won’t stand for such waste.
Speaking of waste, he could point to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s new rooftop patio and barbecue. How on earth could the bureaucracy spend more than $37,000 on such a luxury while the provincial government was running a massive deficit?
Mr. Pallister should also point to Frontier Centre for Public Policy research that shows Manitoba has a bloated public sector. To address the problem, he could commit to a pain-free downsizing of the bureaucracy, as government data shows more than 6,000 bureaucrats will be eligible for retirement over the next 10 years.
It’s good that Mr. Pallister is acknowledging growing debt and high taxation as problematic. However, it’s equally important for him to explain how he would address the root causes of those problems.
» Colin Craig is Manitoba director Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the country’s leading non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group fighting for lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.