Manitoba Premier Still Eyeing Spending Restraint, Balanced-Budget Law

Manitoba Premier Still Eyeing Spending Restraint, Balanced-Budget Law

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Brian Pallister
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to media at an embargoed press conference before the provincial throne speech at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Monday, May 16, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he is still working on spending- restraint measures and a new balanced-budget law as the fall sitting of the legislature begins.

Pallister promised before winning last April’s election to slow the growth in government spending each year — not with deep cuts but with limited new expenditures.

Pallister says a government-wide review begun in the spring is ongoing and the province will not be saying ‘yes’ to as many funding requests as in previous years.

The Progressive Conservative government also plans to reinstate a requirement that any major tax increases be subject to a referendum.

The former NDP government changed that section of the balanced-budget law, and Pallister says he wants to restore it to ensure politicians are accountable for their decisions.

The proposed law would penalize cabinet ministers with a 20 per cent pay cut if they tried to raise a major tax without a referendum.

“If you believe that there should be consequences … you’ll like this legislation — consequences for the people who make decisions with the money,” Pallister said Monday.

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled in 2014 that a previous requirement for a referendum on tax hikes was unenforceable, because it infringed on the constitutional rights of governments to change laws.

Pallister said he can institute a law so that there is at least a political price for raising taxes.

The legislature is to sit for five weeks and will deal mainly with bills introduced in the spring that have yet to be passed into law. They include measures to end an annual public subsidy for political parties and to ensure byelections are called within six months of a legislature seat becoming vacant.

Another, more controversial, bill proposes to make it harder for some workplaces to unionize and would require a secret-ballot vote any time workers wanted to join a union. Currently, no vote is required if 65 per cent or more of employees in a workplace sign union membership cards.

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