Opinion Column

Budget advice for the province



Tell it like it is -- or should be -- to Finance Minister Stan Struthers. (Winnipeg Sun files)

Since I can't make it to any of the Selinger government's pre-budget public meetings, I'm going to file my submission in writing.

Part-time Finance Minister Stan Struthers announced Monday he's holding a series of pre-budget consultations to get input from the public on the 2012 provincial budget.

There are two meetings scheduled for Winnipeg. One was held Monday, a few hours after they issued the news release.


Since I can't make it to any of the meetings - they're all scheduled for weekday evenings, which conflicts with my kids' hockey, soccer and volleyball games/practices - I'll have to provide my input in writing.

Stan the Man is going to have to do several things in this budget to get his government's finances under control.

The NDP is running an $841-million deficit right now and the black side of the ledger is nowhere in site. Struthers also has to take steps to make Manitoba a more competitive province.

This is my Top-10 list of things the NDP should include in its 2012 budget, which will be tabled in the next two to three months.

1Cut the pay of all 57 MLAs by 10%.

It's called leadership. Politicians have to lead by example and show that they're willing to do their part to balance the budget by tightening their own belts.

2 Reduce departmental spending by 5% across the board.

The NDP can't even think of balancing the books unless it starts cutting costs. A 5% cut across all departments is not unreasonable given the massive increases all provincial departments have received over the past 10 years.

3 Implement a three-year hiring freeze.

The hiring freeze would help departments meet their 5% spending-cut goal. While the legislative assembly could make provisions for extraordinary cases, the hiring freeze should apply to all departments.

4 Immediately raise the personal exemption for income taxes to $10,000.

At $8,134, Manitoba's personal exemption - the amount you can earn before you start paying taxes - is among the lowest in the country. This makes us uncompetitive.

5 Give us the real deficit number in your budget, not the fudged one your government has been reporting.

It's time for transparency. The province has been giving us bogus deficit numbers in recent years, something the Winnipeg Sun exposed last year. Tell us the truth about the real size of the deficit.

6 Eliminate all corporate welfare.

It's something former premier Gary Doer promised he would do, but never did. All grants to for-profit companies should be cancelled.

7 Phase out the payroll tax over five years.

This is one of Manitoba's worst and most damaging taxes. It scares head offices away and kills jobs. Lower it each year with the goal of eliminating the tax by 2017.

8 Get rid of bracket creep by indexing tax brackets.

Manitoba is one of the few jurisdictions that refuses to index its tax brackets to inflation, which means we pay higher tax rates with cost-of-living increases in our pay. It's a backdoor tax grab that makes Manitoba less competitive.

9 Cut travel budgets in half for every bureaucrat, political hack and politician.

Travel, including junkets to useless conferences, is considered discretionary spending.

10 Cut the Land Transfer Tax by 25% and phase it out over five years.

This levy has turned into a massive tax grab by the NDP as housing prices have soared in recent years. The NDP has increased rates on homes worth far more than they were 10 years ago.

You can email your submission to Stan the Man at minfin@leg.gov.mb.ca.

I sent mine in.