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This article was published 28/3/2016 (1304 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG - A Liberal government in Manitoba would run deficits longer, avoid tax increases and impose spending caps on health care, social services and on other areas.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari on Monday outlined a fiscal plan to show how her party would pay for $143 million in promises made so far during the campaign for the April 19 provincial election — everything from new child-care spaces to northern food subsidies to a sales-tax reduction on haircuts.
The plan relies largely on deeper and longer deficits, which would be chipped away at by capping growth in government spending. Health-care costs would be increased at four per cent a year, education at 2.5 per cent and all other departments at two per cent.
"If we want to get ourselves out of the (Premier Greg) Selinger mess, that means we have to hold spending on everything," Bokhari said. "The plan is managed spending growth."
With spending restrained and the economy expected to grow slightly as it does each year in the province, the Liberals predict they would eventually balance the budget by 2022 at the earliest — two years later than the incumbent NDP's plan.
The Liberal fiscal outline does not include their costliest promise — elimination of the corporate payroll tax which nets the province $400 million annually. That tax cut would be phased in after the budget was balanced, Bokhari said.
The plan would rely on keeping the government's debt-servicing costs steady at $215 million a year, despite the increase in debt the plan contains. It would also rely on a drain of $15 million annually from the province's rainy-day fund.
Bokhari added a balanced budget could be pushed back if there were any floods or other natural disasters. Manitoba dealt with costly flooding in 2011, 2009 and 2006.
"If there's a disaster, if something is happening to Manitobans (and) they need help, our target gets moved."
The New Democrats responded Monday by saying the Liberals are underestimating the cost of their promises.
"They've made expensive promises they can't explain or account for, which means they either can't deliver or have no interest in delivering," NDP spokesman Andrew Tod said in a written statement.
The Liberals have one seat in the legislature, but opinion polls suggest their popularity has risen sharply in recent months. Much of that support has come at the expense of the New Democrats, who dropped in opinion polls after raising the provincial sales tax in 2013.
The New Democrats focused their campaign on health care Monday. Selinger said a re-elected NDP government would cut the cost of ambulance rides in half and reduce hospital parking fees. The ambulance fee promise matches a promise already made by the Progressive Conservatives.
Selinger also said he would remove the per-kilometre ambulance fee for rural and northern patients. The total cost of the promises is $20 million a year, he added.
Pallister promised to more than double funding for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries. The program would be cost-shared with matching private donations and the government would put up an extra $6.75 million a year.
Pallister also said he would work with post-secondary advisory councils and industry to develop student-aid programs focusing on strong labour market outcomes.