By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says his Progressive Conservative government is putting $407 million into the province’s rainy-day fund.
Pallister says the province has more money than expected, because of higher-than-expected revenues and some lower-than-expected expenditures.
Even though the province is still running deficits, Pallister says his government is putting money into the rainy-day fund to make sure there is cash available in the event of flooding or other disasters.
The fund was set up three decades ago and had grown to more than $800 million by 2008.
The previous NDP government regularly took money out of it, partly to help fight floods, and the fund dropped to $114 million in 2017.
Full details of Manitoba’s financial picture are expected Thursday when the government is to release its audited financial statements for the fiscal year that ended in March.
“We found money this year that wasn’t anticipated because of certain circumstances changing,” Pallister said Wednesday.
“That money, given the absence of a rainy-day fund strong enough to support us in case of a flood, should be put into the rainy-day fund.”
Pallister said one factor was a delayed start to construction of a flood outlet on Lake Manitoba. Money on the huge project that was supposed to be spent in the last fiscal year was not spent. He laid the blame on the federal government and its approval process, which he has previously said was causing undue delays.
The Opposition New Democrats said the Tories should spend the money instead of putting it away.
“This is $400 million that could have been spent on health care while there’s an ongoing crisis in emergency rooms in Winnipeg. This is $400 million that could have been spent improving education for students across the province,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
Kinew and Pallister will face each other in question period next week for the first time since the Sept. 10 election that saw the Tories win a second consecutive majority. The legislature is to convene Monday with a speech from the throne.
The sitting is scheduled for two weeks to finish passing the spring budget. The NDP will have more time in question period because the Liberals lost official party status when they won only three seats. That means they will be allotted fewer questions.