“Manitobans expect and deserve excellent public services. And they expect government to use their tax dollars wisely to ensure these services are delivered as efficiently as possible. We reject across the board cuts that might help the government’s bottom line today, but would hurt families well into the future.”
— Manitoba Finance Minister Jennifer Howard
The fact that Manitoba’s NDP government is still trying to scare up the ghost of Filmons past — more than 14 years after coming to power — would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dishonest.
Like many governments that stick around long enough to become long in the tooth, trying to deflect blame and demonize opposition parties becomes more than just a force of habit. It becomes a means to an end.
On Thursday, Manitoba Finance Minister Jennifer Howard laid out the NDP government’s budget for 2014, a document that was as underwhelming in its lack of innovation as it was a partisan swipe at the Progressive Conservatives, and the previous government of Gary Filmon.
As noted in the above quote, Howard alluded to unsubstantiated claims that any future Tory government would cut public services “across the board,” gutting everything from home care and other medical services to education and teaching positions.
Here’s a few more examples of Howard’s highly partisan shots across the bow:
• “Some have called for short-sighted cuts that hurt families and our economy.”
• “Under the previous government, funding cuts to schools led to hundreds of teachers being laid off. That is not our approach.”
• “The last time Manitoba faced a recession, medical school spaces were cut, nurses were fired and wait lists grew.”
The minister even tried to frame the infrastructure file as a wedge issue, suggesting those calling for “reckless cuts” — she means those dastardly Tories — would also be “slamming the brakes on infrastructure renewal.”
Let’s put aside the fact the Brandon School Division already has plans to eliminate 11 teaching positions under its current proposed budget because it’s not economically or politically feasible to again demand that local taxpayers foot the bill for out-of-control wage increases.
Ignore the fact that in the 1997-98 fiscal year Manitoba was one of five provinces that had invested more than five per cent of their health budgets into home care, including Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Saskatchewan and B.C. invested between three and four per cent, while Alberta, Quebec, P.E.I. and what was then the North West Territories invested between two and three per cent. This according to a 1999 Health Canada report.
And forget for a moment that the government has had 14 years to properly address crumbling roads in Manitoba, or that growing waiting lists for health care were a huge concern in every province in the late 1990s, not just Manitoba.
In the next election, PC Leader Brian Pallister will face an NDP that has been backed into a corner by its own failing policies, its unbelievably poor economic record, and a hike in the PST that not only broke an election promise, but angered many taxed-out Manitobans.
With its back up against the wall, the NDP will act as any wounded animal, by striking hard against its antagonist. In this case, fear mongering — the NDP weapon of choice — coupled with smarmy attack ads like the one currently airing which states “Brian Pallister’s running with scissors. And someone’s going to get hurt.”
The Tories obviously know these attacks will strike a chord among diehard New Democrat supporters. But considering recent polls, there are undoubtedly more Manitobans who now find themselves peering over the fence at both Pallister and even Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari, looking for greener pastures.
The best thing opposition parties can do, in our opinion, is to counter the NDP’s ever increasing hyperventilation with calm and reasonable options.
And while doing so, we’d appreciate an effort by opposition members to avoid referencing the Howard Pawley years. That kind of muckraking has been done to death in this province.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 8, 2014