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Tories Promise Lower Taxes, NDP Pledge Job Protection on Manitoba Campaign Trail

September 11, 2023 4:01 PM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Heather Stefanson - Wab Kinew - Dougald Lamont

In this composite image made from three photographs, from right to left, Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Leader Heather Stefanson speaks during a news conference in Whistler, B.C., Tuesday, June 27, 2023; Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023; and Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont speaks to the media at the Legislature building, in Winnipeg, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, John Woods, David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Progressive Conservatives promised Monday to phase out the province’s payroll tax over eight years, while the New Democrats pledged more government contract work for bidders and workers in the province.

The announcement by the Tories was the latest in a series of deep tax-cut promises as they seek a third consecutive mandate in the Oct. 3 provincial election.

A Tory government would eliminate the payroll tax, which brings in roughly $440 million a year to provincial coffers, in order to make Manitoba more competitive, party Leader Heather Stefanson said.

“This tax punishes businesses for expanding or paying their employees higher wages,” Stefanson said.

The tax, formally called the Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy, charges employers a percentage of their total annual payroll. Those with payrolls below $2 million a year are exempt. Five provinces, including Saskatchewan and Alberta, do not have a similar tax.

Last week, the Tories promised to cut in half, over four years, the rate applied to the bottom personal income-tax bracket. The move would cost the treasury some $600 million a year once fully phased in. The Tories have also promised cuts to eliminate the land transfer tax for first-time homebuyers and to give people a tax credit for mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs.

While Manitoba has run deficits in every year but one since 2009, Stefanson said the province can afford the tax cuts because they will stimulate economic growth.

The New Democrats, who have been the Opposition for seven years, said the Tory plan doesn’t address voter needs.

“If you talk to the average Manitoban … they’ll tell you what their priority is: lower costs for my family and make sure that the health-care system is there for us when we need it,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

The NDP, too, promised a tax cut — a temporary suspension of the provincial fuel tax until inflation subsides. They have also promised to freeze hydroelectric rates for one year.

Kinew made a different economic promise Monday. He said an NDP government would ensure more government contract work goes to bidders and workers within the province.

National and regional trade agreements require equal access to bidders from other provinces on most major projects, but Kinew said there are exceptions.

“The PCs have never taken advantage of the clauses in these agreements that allow you to put your local workers first. Alberta does it. Saskatchewan does it,” Kinew said. He did not provide any examples.

Kinew also promised to spend more on infrastructure projects, including new hospital emergency departments his party has already promised if it wins the election.

The Manitoba Liberal Party, which won three legislature seats in the last election, did not hold a campaign news conference Monday. The party was still finalizing its list of candidates ahead of an afternoon nomination deadline with Elections Manitoba.

The Tories and NDP had candidates registered in all 57 constituencies. The Liberals had 49. Elections Manitoba said it would release a final list Tuesday.

CP - The Canadian Press