By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont says he will not commit to releasing a fully costed election platform.
Lamont says he will lay out his anti-austerity platform before the Sept. 10 provincial election, but cannot commit to revealing details as to how he would pay for it.
Part of the reason, he says, is that he believes the government may be overstating the deficit and hiding some of the real fiscal numbers.
Lamont says he opposes the Progressive Conservative government’s spending cuts and would, if elected, reverse the closures of three hospital emergency departments in Winnipeg.
He has also spoken out against the government’s public-sector wage freeze, and has called on the province to spend more on infrastructure.
Lamont also says if elected premier he would set up a review of provincial taxes to determine which ones might be raised or lowered.
“The tax review in itself would affect revenue and we don’t want to prejudge what that is going to be,” Lamont said Tuesday.
Lamont, 50, has long promoted the idea of heightened spending to fight government deficits.
Even before he was elected Liberal leader in 2017, he had a blog in which he said Manitoba’s string of deficits that started in 2009 was primarily caused by tax cuts, not by overspending.
He said if his party, which currently has four of the 57 legislature seats, forms government, it would focus on spending to boost the economy.
“Our goal, ultimately, is to focus on growing the economy and actually investing,” he said.
“That’s the most important thing right now because I think the austerity being pursued by this government is actually harming the economy.”
Lamont said some of his promises could involve spending less money, or spending a slightly higher amount because they would be cost-shared by other levels of government.
Premier Brian Pallister was elected in 2016 on a promise to cut the provincial sales tax in his first term and balance the budget in his second. The effort has included civil service wage freezes, post-secondary tuition hikes, and cuts to subsidies for public housing, sleep apnea machines and more.
The government is also in the process of converting three of Winnipeg’s six hospital emergency rooms into urgent care centres, which don’t deal with life-threatening issues such as heart attacks.
With the promised sales-tax cut to take effect July 1, Pallister decided to call the election early, more than a year ahead of the previously scheduled date of Oct. 6, 2020.