Manitoba releases 2010 budget

Focus on economic stimulus, funding for apprenticeships

Manitoba's five-year economic plan, announced as part of the province's 2010 budget, will tackle the budget shortfall while continuing to invest in front-line services and stimulate the economy.

“There isn’t a corner of the world that has escaped the recession that has swept over the globe in the past year,” said Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk. “Manitoba has fared better than most, but we are still feeling the impact of the worst economic downturn since the Second World War. What we need to do now is ensure our economy is competitive when the global economy recovers. We need to do it in a way that doesn’t leave people behind.”

The government projects a $545-million deficit, which includes core government departments, Crown corporations and pension obligations. As part of the five-year economic plan, a payment of $96 million will be made to start paying down principal and interest on the debt incurred as a result of the recession and Wowchuck projects the deficit will be eliminated by 2014.

More than 90 per cent of new spending in the budget will go to health care, education, training, policing and supports for families, said Wowchuck.

As part of these initiatives, the budget includes additional funding to train more doctors and nurses and limiting increases to pharmacare deductibles to the rate of inflation.

The government will also increase funding to public schools by almost three per cent and give post-secondary institutions a 4.5 per cent operating increase. And to improve the recruitment and retention of early childhood educators, the government will create a new pension plan for child-care workers.

The budget also includes an extra $2 million for apprenticeship positions to help meet the emerging labour market training demands and continuing support for Rebound, a program that helps low-income people learn new skills that lead to jobs.

A key element of the five-year economic plan involves stimulating economic growth through investments in infrastructure, said Wowchuk. The idea is to build and upgrade infrastructure to create jobs and to invest in innovation to secure a prosperous future, she said.

To this end, Budget 2010 will invest $1.8 billion in infrastructure spending, a 90-per-cent increase over 2008. The government will also add 1,500 new social housing units over the next five years and upgrade existing units, involving people in social housing in the construction and renovation projects to develop skills and community pride.

The budget also includes spending cuts, including limiting overall core government spending growth to an annual average of less than two per cent over the five-year plan and decreasing the budgets of one-half of all government departments in 2010-11 to focus on the above priority areas.

The government will also cut cabinet minister salaries by 20 per cent, propose a wage freeze for members of the legislative assembly and senior government staff, and negotiate a public sector wage freeze.

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