Manitoba will get an unexpected boost of between $60 million and $70 million from the federal budget announced on Tuesday, said provincial Finance Minister Greg Selinger.
"Overall, the new information that we have … is worth about one per cent of, say, the provincial budget.… That's the net increase over what we've already known in the past," Selinger told CBC News on Tuesday.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stressed the need for prudence in the budget he introduced on Tuesday, saying the economy is slowing. The budget had little in the way of significant tax or spending measures.
"The reality is this a stay-of-the-course budget," said Selinger. "So it makes a modest contribution to things we would like to do anyway."
Selinger welcomed money made available for mental health care: Winnipeg was one of five cities selected for a pilot project on mental health and homelessness.
He is concerned that government is discontinuing the millennium scholarship fund for people going into post-secondary schools.
Premier Gary Doer was pleased to see manufacturers get a break on capital depreciation and more money for rapid transit and bicycle paths.
He applauded the $240 million earmarked to help Saskatchewan build a carbon-capture system for its coal plants, noting that Manitoba is already looking at such a system for its oil wells.
The budget also included a new tax-free savings account that will allow people to save as much as to $5,000 without paying tax on the capital gains, even when withdrawn. Doer said the province will likely also not tax the interest earned in the account.
"It's a good initiative," he said. "The idea of not taxing … the interest in that savings account, I think, is a good idea."
However, the premier was not happy to learn the federal government is not renewing its rebate program for fuel-efficient vehicles, which expires next year.
"We're glad it's extended this year, but we would argue it should be extended further," he said.
Manitoba's rebate program will continue, Doer said, joking that it would last until every Manitoban buys a hybrid vehicle.
Winnipeg to tap into transit money
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz was also encouraged by some aspects of Tuesday's budget.
He was pleased to hear the federal gas-tax fund will become permanent, saying it's money sorely needed to help with cities' infrastructure deficits.
"I hope that they take into consideration that down the road today's dollar will not have the same value, so I hope they build something in for inflation," he said.
The mayor also said the city will work to get its share of $500 million in new federal money made available for public transit projects.
The projects must be identified by March, but Katz doesn't think that will be a problem.
"I'm sure there will be many cities and municipalities looking at this funding, so whatever the numbers start off with, once you start dividing it, it can be much smaller," he said. "By the same token, I think it's incumbent upon us to go out there actively and pursue that funding."
Several possible transit projects are on the table, he said, including rapid transit.