The Manitoba government delivered its 2012 budget Tuesday, outlining a blueprint for cost-cutting measures of 3.9 percent to significantly reduce the province’s debt by 2014.
Finance Minister Stan Struthers hinted at one of the most attention-grabbing highlights earlier in the day with the relaxation in Sunday shopping hours. Shoppers seemed thrilled, according to reaction on social media, while small businesses also appeared to generally welcome the extended hours.
“Through record flooding last year and a global recession, we’ve worked to protect jobs and services families count on and our plan is working,” Struthers said. “But in uncertain times, families look for creative ways to reduce their expenses and we have too. In this budget, we’ve frozen or reduced spending in 10 departments to make sure more money is going directly into our schools, hospitals and roads.”
The NDP government will apply the PST to services costing more than $50, such as manicures, pedicures, haircuts and spa treatments.
Among the highlights, the province also announced:
- The merger of the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission and the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation to create a single streamlined Crown corporation.
- Reducing the number of regional health authorities (RHAs) to five from 11. This will include a new Western Health Region (merging the Assiniboine, Brandon and Parkland RHAs), a new Northern Health Region (merging the Burntwood and NOR-MAN RHAs), a new Southern Health Region (merging the Central and South Eastman RHAs), a new Eastern Health Region (merging the Interlake and North Eastman RHAs), and the Winnipeg and Churchill RHAs will also be merged as the regions are already closely connected.
- A 2.5-cent increase in the gasoline tax to support rebuilding of roads and highways. Provincial taxes on gasoline will remain the second-lowest in Canada.
- A maximum increase of $35 to the vehicle registration fee.
- The hiring of 20 additional firefighters in Winnipeg, and four firefighters/paramedics in Brandon.
- An increase in the minimum wage by 25 cents on October 1.
- Reduction in class sizes to 20 students in kindergarten to Grade 3.
- Reduction in income taxes for families to increase the basic personal exemption by $250 this year and increasing the seniors’ maximum property tax credit by $75 to $1,025.
- Faster cancer testing and treatment, and provide free cancer drugs for all patients, allowing more patients to remain at home during treatment.
- Rebuilding flood-damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
“Budget 2012 responds to today’s challenges by finding savings within government so we can continue to invest in the priorities of families while growing our economy,” Struthers added.