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Local MLAs discussing impending provincial budget

Don Radford

Members of the provincial opposition held a pre-budget consultation meeting in Winkler Thursday to discuss the upcoming Manitoba budget.

Local MLAs Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler), Cliff Graydon (Emerson), Blaine Pedersen (Midland) hosted a round-table discussion with PC finance critic Heather Stefanson to hear local concerns.

The meeting was held at the Winkler's Heartland Inn and included about two dozen mayors, reeves and councillors from across southern Manitoba, as well as economic development officers and chambers of commerce representatives.

"The NDP government overspent in nine departments last year and added more than $2 billion to the debt in our province last year," said Stefanson. "And that was in a year in which they had previously claimed to be tightening the belt and using restraint. The truth is, this NDP has a spending addiction and all Manitobans are paying the price."

Stefanson said she'd be keeping an eye out for back-door taxes and fee increases as the NDP introduce their budget in the coming weeks.

"The NDP have blamed the federal government and they've blamed the flood for their financial troubles. At no point have they accepted responsibility and taken action," Stefanson said. "They won't even consider a review of their spending practices and refuse to take measures to improve our financial performance, such as cutting red tape and joining the New West Partnership."

Graydon expressed concern about the lack of initiative from the NDP government to stimulate the economy in rural Manitoba.

"The burden of red tape continues to slow growth," said Graydon. "People are already over-taxed and there's not enough opportunity to attract young people to the province, especially in rural Manitoba."

Friesen is concerned about the impact of this year's budget on local priorities.

"Will the province's record deficit jeopardize local programming in the Winkler-Morden region?" asked Friesen.

Ag critic Pedersen said the agriculture sector faces many challenges, and the Tories are committed to ensuring the industry is sustainable and successful over the long term. "We'll continue working on issues related to agriculture and Manitoba's rural economy."